POINT OF SCORE | HEADLINES
Despite the Thunder's best efforts to melt on Saturday afternoon in Philadelphia, Paul George threw the game's four-point winning play with 5.1 seconds left to secure a 117-115 victory over the 76ers. He finished with 31 points (14 in the last quarter) to finish the OKC two-game slide with a quality victory on the road.
Even though Oklahoma City led with up to 16 and had an 11-point lead with less than 10 minutes left, the Sixers scored 36 points with 68.8 percent shooting in the fourth – taking a 115-113 lead when Jimmy Butler stole a missed pbad from Dennis Schroder and turned it into a layup with 6.9 seconds remaining. However, with Russell Westbrook in the bank when failing, George hit the dagger three and received a foul from Butler. He converted the free kick to put OKC in two with 5.1 seconds to play. The Thunder defense then stopped and escaped Philadelphia with victory.
George led the way with 31 points and joined in double figures to Westbrook (21), Schroder (21), Steven Adams (16), Terrance Ferguson (11) and Jerami Grant (10). The Thunder forced Philly to 19 turnovers that resulted in 28 points, a positive sign considering the recent defensive struggles. Joel Embiid scored 31 points to lead the Sixers, with JJ Redick contributing 22 and Ben Simmons adding 20.
The Thunder return to action Monday in New York, facing the Knicks at 11:30 a.m. CST as part of the celebration of Martin Luther King Day of the NBA. That game will be televised on Fox Sports Oklahoma and NBA TV.
Good to get one. With the Thunder going 1-5 in the six games before this one, it's good to see them come out of a difficult environment with a solid victory. The brightness of the victory can often blur the details, so it's important to keep some things in mind here:
- The Thunder led with 16 in the first quarter and they found two with 6.9 seconds remaining. Second consecutive game, a monster in the first quarter of advantage has completely evaporated.
- Russell Westbrook had 21-10-6 on 8-of-21 shots and was 1-for-6 from long range. It was another shooting effort below par and he missed two triples in the final 1:17 with the Thunder barely clinging to the lead. Then he failed with 14.9 seconds left to play, committing a foul on Joel Embiid when he shot a triple. Embiid made his three free to tie the game at 113. Then …
- With Schroder in the starting position, Billy Donovan chose not to ask a timeout after Embiid's third free throw, then watched the Sixers press the backup into a terrible rotation that resulted in points to put Philly in front with 6.9 seconds to play.
- Basically, the Thunder led 113-110 with 20.9 seconds left and fouled a three-point shooter to allow the Sixers to tie, then turned it and lost the lead with 6.9 to play. George took a big hit and pulled the team out of another terrible loss (considering the circumstances). However, happy with a victory. It's funny how that works. (I still do not feel very good about that).
PG. George went electric in the fourth quarter, scoring 14 of his 31 points in 4 of 7 shots in the frame. The lack of Westbrook before the last shot could have been a total blessing. George came forward and crowned a large room with a big shot. I'm not sure it works that way in an alternate universe.
Grant & Steve. Jerami Grant led the team with a +25 at night, scoring 10 points and adding nine rebounds on another solid start. Adams recorded 16 points and nine rebounds, but finished as -14 due to being paired with Embiid throughout the game.
Big Time Ferg. Ferguson continued to fire him long range, reaching 3 out of 6 on the way to 11 points for the game. He hit a monster three to put the Thunder 111-107 with 42 seconds to play and continues firing with confidence. Do not look now, but you're averaging 13 PPG in 50 percent three-pointers in the last five games.
Points in the painting. Although Philly won 47-45 on the glbad and scored 14 second-chance points, the Thunder had a 48-40 lead in the paint score. Much better than the last two games.
Free shots. OKC shot 23 of 26 from the free throw line, with 88.5 percent. It really is a good time to look competent in that department, since a couple more faults here and there would have cost them the game. Good work, gentlemen.