The Thunder had lost five out of six games coming into today’s game on ABC versus the Philadelphia 76ers. Paul George insured that they would not lose today, as when the Thunder were down 115-113 after an ill-advised pass from Dennis Schroder, he hit a 3-pointer plus the foul, giving the Thunder a 117-115 lead that would ultimately be the final score, as Oklahoma City increased their winning streak versus Philadelphia to 19 straight wins.
Oklahoma City started the game off firing, and took a big lead that got up to as much as 31-to-15 in the first quarter. Philadelphia stabilized, and ended the first quarter on a 10-2 run. Ben Simmons’ length gave the shorter guards a difficult time, as Simmons converted on some layups with little to no resistance.
The second quarter was defined by the offensive rebounds and open jumpers that Oklahoma City gave up to Philadelphia. The Sixers made six threes and got seven offensive rebounds, compared to the Thunder’s two made threes and one offensive rebound. Schroder was 5-7 in the quarter, with both of the Thunder’s threes.
The third quarter saw Oklahoma City give up the lead early, tying the game at 65-65, but then responding with a 16-4 run. Russell Westbrook’s third quarter saw him make his only three of the game, a wide open catch and shoot three, the only type of three that Westbrook should be taking. George was a quiet 1-of-6 in the quarter, making a three pointer and four free throws. The Thunder went into the fourth quarter with a nine point lead.
The fourth quarter was a doozy. The lead looked like it was going to be stable about three minutes, as Oklahoma City and Philadelphia were trading baskets with not much pointing to a big run incoming. The 9-minute mark is where the tides started to shift. Philadelphia would cut erase the nine-point Oklahoma City lead and turn it into a two-point lead for the Sixers. Paul George would hit some major shots in the minutes that followed, including two threes. In addition, Terrance Ferguson, who finished the game with 11 points on 4-8 shooting (3-of-6 from three), hit a massive three to put Oklahoma City up 4 with 41.3 seconds left.
Some things then happened, like a Jimmy Butler three-point-play, then two Paul George free throws. Joel Embiid was fouled by Russell Westbrook on a three-point attempt, which was Westbrook’s sixth foul. Embiid ended up hitting all three free-throws, tying the game at 113.
Things got crazy afterwards. Schroder made a very poor pass after getting trapped on the baseline by two Philadelphia defenders, and Jimmy Butler intercepted the pass and made the layup to put the Sixers up 115-113.
Then, a man by the name of Paul George happened.
“We run that play so many times, routine play for us, got that screen from Steve-O,” Paul George said. “We need to be better at late game situations, that’s on us.”
George caught the ball on a screen, found an open look, and nailed a three-pointer as he was fouled, giving OKlahoma City the lead for good.
“That’s PG,” Russell Westbrook said. “You don’t get too excited anymore about those I mean they happen so many times. PG’s doing what PG does and we just got to see it and get a win.”
George finished with 31 points, six rebounds, five assists and three steals. Westbrook had 21 points, 10 rebounds and six assists for Oklahoma City, and reserve Dennis Schroder also scored 21 points.
Note: Terrance Ferguson is now shooting 37.7 percent from three on 3.2 attempts per game while playing some very solid defense. He has been amazing for Oklahoma City as of recent.
Oklahoma City hasn’t lost to the Sixers since Nov. 15, 2008, in the 10th game of the OKC franchise’s existence. Since then, the Thunder have rolled off 19 straight wins. The two-thirds were against abysmal Sixers teams. The last third have been against solid opponents in Philadelphia.
Westbrook fouled out late in the fourth. His rivalry with Embiid continues to grow.
The Thunder travel to New York City on Monday, Martin Luther King day, to play the Knicks at 11:30 a.m. Thunder time.
Keys to the Game:
Force Turnovers A
The Thunder forced 17 Philadelphia turnovers, with 10 steals, turning them into 28 points. Ben Simmons turned the ball over six times, a high for both teams. The Thunder only turned the ball over 10 times.
Make Free Throws: A
The Thunder shot 23-26 (88.5 percent) from the line, with the only misses coming from Westbrook. Paul George was a perfect 11-for-11, proving crucial in the two point win. Good teams make their free throws, and that’s what the Thunder did today. Philadelphia shot 39 free throws, but only converted on 28 of them (71.8 percent).
Good Russ: B-
Westbrook shot 8-21 from the field, racked up 10 rebounds, and six assists, as well as four turnovers. His fourth quarter was filled with a lot of “Oh no Russ! Oh good job Russ!” He shot a questionable three, looking for a dagger while up four, which bricked and let to a Butler pull up three that dropped, then on the next possession, shot another three, but got the rebound and set Ferguson up perfectly for a wide open three that dropped. Westbrook did the absolute worst thing you could do up three, foul a three-point shooter, as well as foul out.
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