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OKC played the team from “The City of Brotherly Love,” but love was lacking on Sunday in The ‘Peake.
Paul George committed the game’s first foul, and the first points. After a Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot two, George made a beautiful three for OKC. A Carmelo Anthony two put the Thunder on top 9-7. Both the Thunder and the Sixers played fast basketball to start. Philadelphia is the fastest team in basketball, and just like the Thunder have done all year, they played like their competition. While attempting a layup, Russell Westbrook fell hard to the floor. Then, in true Russ fashion he went right back into the game and assisted Steven Adams for a huge alley-oop. Joel Embiid exacted revenge on Westbrook with a huge slam, sending Westbrook to the floor, then staring him down. After Andre Roberson’s injury last night, OKC has been on edge, and the Russ fall didn’t help that. The Thunder got fat after the layup allowing a Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons bucket, putting Philly up by one. The momentum went into Embiid’s favor, as he hit a long two, followed by an Adams basket despite Embiid’s defense. As predicted by Raymond Felton, the game got physical and emotional early on. Oklahoma City’s defense was in question, being that Roberson is out. The Thunder forced a shot clock violation, followed by a Westbrook basket. George had an interaction of his own with Embiid, drawing a shooting foul, and making both of his free throws. The first quarter provided entertainment, much like that of the first meeting between Philadelphia and Oklahoma City. OKC led PHILA 31-29 at the end of the first.
The second quarter started with a wide open Raymond Felton three. Less than 2 minutes into the quarter, multiple fouls were whistled. A game between OKC and Philadelphia is bound to be physical. Even, 76ers head coach, Bret Brown told his team, “this is a man’s gym.” The athleticism and emotions of the game proved Brown’s point. Embiid seems to play a lot like Baker Mayfield. Not even halfway through the second quarter, Embiid recorded his third foul by elbowing Patrick Patterson in the head. Whether he did it on purpose or not is up for discussion. Brown benched Embiid, literally, for less than a minute.
“Brown is showing trust in [Embiid],” Doris Burke said.
A Russ layup put Oklahoma City up by four and called for a Sixer timeout. Westbrook, for the most part, could not get into true Russ form for much of the first half. Even after Embiid fell to the floor, he had the opportunity to go to the other end of the floor on his own, but missed the layup. Neither team showed any real control of the game in the first half. Back-to-back Westbrook and Simmons dunks epitomized the game. A Paul George buzzer beater ended the second half. PHILA led OKC 58-57 at half.
The Sixers started the second half quickly with a pair of Dario Saric buckets, and a steal … followed by another Saric basket. The Thunder played, inexcusably, sloppy out of the gate; however, their third quarters have been indicative of such performances. Russ started a stretch of OKC brilliance with a steal and a coast-to-coast layup. Embiid recored his fourth foul with a technical dealt to George. PG made his technical free throws. OKC was on the bad end of a controversial offensive foul, but Embiid went down floor and air balled a three. As they say, “ball don’t lie.” With 3:45 remaining in the third quarter, George hit a key three to put his Thunder on top 81-79. Embiid, with four fouls, reentered the game at the 3:17 mark. A Westbrook bucket made the score 86-79 and the Sixers called a full timeout as the OKC home crowd erupted. The Sixers showed signs of tiredness with their fourth shot clock violation. By Oklahoma City standards, the Thunder had a good third quarter shutting down the Sixers and sending Embiid to the bench for much longer than Philly would like. OKC led PHILA 92-83 at the end of the third.
Billy Donovan put out a whole lineup of bench players to start the fourth quarter. (With the exception of regular bench-player Terrance Ferguson who is starting for Roberson). Philadelphia’s Robert Covington fell hard to the floor right in front of a photographer on the baseline. So hard he dropped a couple of f-bombs to the microphones of national television. The OKC reserve players played diametrically opposite from the performance OKC fans saw in the Wizards game. Westbrook came out of the timeout with a hellacious dunk. Westbrook stared down the Sixer bench on the way back down floor. Adams sent the Thunder over the century mark with a board and a layup. Back and forth buckets kept the game too close for comfort. After an Adams two, Brown called a timeout with tensions running high. Kiwi continued his hot streak with a Westbrook assisted alley-oop, sparking the Thunder’s performance. Westbrook and Billy Donovan had a few words with a referee, resulting in an OKC technical foul. ESPN’s Doris Burke and Mark Jones vouched for Westbrook, vehemently, during the technical free throws. Westbrook’s three at 2:40 extended the Thunder lead to seven. A few minutes later, Adams hit a 7-footer to make the OKC lead ten, all but sealing the deal. Embiid fouled out with 40.9 to go, much to the delight of OKC fans.
FINAL – OKC 122 PHILA 112
UP NEXT – The Thunder travel to the nation’s capital for a 6:00 game with Washington, coming just five days after the Wizards visited OKC.