The Oklahoma City Thunder (38-23) were defeated by the Philadelphia 76ers (40-22) on Thursday night at Chesapeake Energy Arena by a final score of 104-108. The loss was Oklahoma City’s third in a row and fourth out of their last five games. Both teams were without their respective All-Star starters with Joel Embiid and Paul George nursing injuries. Russell Westbrook recorded his 129th career triple-double in the loss, while Tobias Harris led the way for the visiting 76ers with 32 points on 5-of-7 shooting from long range.
The Sixers started the game by making nine of their first 11 shots, en route to a 15-4 run, after JJ Redick’s three-pointer gave Philadelphia a 10-point lead midway through the first quarter. Without George, the Thunder offense couldn’t find much of a rhythm as the 76ers led 37-26 after one.
Philadelphia saw their lead grow to as large as 16 after Amir Johnson’s layup capped a 9-2 run to start the second quarter. The 76ers manufactured quality looks with ease, assisting on 21 of their 25 first half field goals. Despite matching up with Philly’s rookie third-string big, Jonah Bolden, Steven Adams was a non-factor, shooting 1-of-4 from the floor in the half. The Sixers led 60-49 at the break.
Billy Donovan made it a priority for the Thunder to get Adams involved to start the second half, and Big Kiwi responded by shooting 3-of-5 in the third. Oklahoma City cut their deficit to two when Terrance Ferguson’s three punctuated a 12-0 run at the 4:37 mark. The 76ers immediately matched the Thunder’s surge with a 13-4 run of their own to put the Sixers up 11 with 1:09 left to go in the quarter. A Dennis Schroder layup and a pair of free throws by Nerlens Noel cut the Thunder deficit to seven going into the fourth.
The Thunder used those four points closing out the third to string together a 9-0 run to start the fourth, trimming their deficit to two as Markieff Morris went to work. The Thunder offense went through Morris on the left block for four straight possessions against Ben Simmons and Jimmy Butler. Russell Westbrook tied the game at 93 after his layup with 5:06 remaining, but the 76ers didn’t flinch. The Thunder offense went ice cold over the next three minutes while the 76ers poured it on by way of a 10-0 run — capped by Butler’s dunk that gave Philadelphia a double-digit advantage with 1:52 on the clock.
The Thunder had one final push left in them, as Jerami Grant’s three-pointer sparked a quick 7-0 run to cut OKC’s deficit to three with 1:03 remaining. With the Thunder needing another stop, a defensive breakdown gave Mike Scott a wide-open three to put the 76ers up six with 53.7 seconds left. The Thunder wouldn’t go away after a Morris layup and another pair of Westbrook free throws made it a 2-point Philly lead with 28.5 seconds to go. Needing yet another stop, the shot clock drained down as Butler’s baseline jumper over Ferguson didn’t fall, but Ben Simmons was there to secure the offensive rebound with a little more than three seconds remaining. JJ Redick’s free-throws sealed the victory for the 76ers, 108-104.
‘Peake Freak: Grant moved to the three in Donovan’s starting lineup tonight, with Morris filling in for the absent Paul George. Grant responded with an efficient 23 points on 10-of-17 shooting, including 2-of-5 from three. Grant used his length to enter the paint throughout while not having to worry about Embiid’s presence.
Welcome Home, ‘Kieff: Chief Kieff drew his first start for the Thunder tonight and he made his presence felt in the fourth quarter. With the Thunder trailing, Morris led the comeback as he scored nine points over the first six minutes of the fourth to bring the Thunder back. Morris scored 11 of his 17 points in the final quarter, going 7-of-12 (1/3P) from the field on the night.
Captain Brodie: Westbrook came into tonight with a 54.4 field goal percentage over the Thunder’s last four games, and OKC needed him to shoulder the offensive load sans PG. Russ was wildly inefficient while recording his 129th career triple-double, going 8-of-24 from the field, including 1-of-9 from three. In total, Westbrook scored 23 points to go with 11 rebounds, 11 assists, a steal, a block, and four turnovers. He also took a beating physically and appeared bothered for most of the evening.
Signs of Life Defensively: Oklahoma City’s defense has left a lot to be desired of late, giving up an average of 129.5 points over the four games leading into tonight. The Thunder settled in nicely after the 76ers raced out to 60 first-half points on 49 percent shooting. OKC held the Sixers to 40.5 percent from the field in the second half, playing a large role in the Thunder’s comeback bid. Hopefully, the Thunder can build off this defensive performance for Saturday night’s showdown in San Antonio. Not yet sure of Paul George’s availability for that one.