Despite the Thunder’s best efforts to melt down on Saturday afternoon in Philadelphia, Paul George delivered the game-winning four-point play with 5.1 seconds remaining to clinch a 117-115 victory over the 76ers. He finished with a game-high 31 points — 14 coming in the fourth quarter — to end OKC’s two-game slide with a quality win on the road.
Though Oklahoma City led by as many as 16 and held an 11-point advantage with less than 10 minutes remaining, the Sixers scored 36 points on 68.8 percent shooting in the fourth — taking a 115-113 lead when Jimmy Butler stole an errant pass by Dennis Schroder and converted it into a layup with 6.9 seconds to go. However, with Russell Westbrook on the bench having fouled out, George hit the dagger three while getting fouled by Butler. He converted the free throw to put OKC up two with 5.1 seconds to play. The Thunder defense then came up with a stop and escaped Philly with the win.
George led the way with 31 points and was joined in double-figures by Westbrook (21), Schroder (21), Steven Adams (16), Terrance Ferguson (11), and Jerami Grant (10). The Thunder forced Philly into 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 on Monday in New York, facing the Knicks at 11:30 a.m. CST as part of the NBA’s Martin Luther King Day celebration. That game will be televised on Fox Sports Oklahoma and NBA TV.
Good to Get One. With the Thunder going 1-5 over the six games prior to this one, it’s nice to see them get out of a tough environment with a solid win. The glow of victory can often blur out the details, so it’s important to note a few things here:
- The Thunder led by 16 in the first quarter and found themselves down two with 6.9 seconds remaining. Second game in a row a monster first quarter lead has completely evaporated.
- Russell Westbrook had 21-10-6 on 8-of-21 shooting and went 1-of-6 from long range. It was another sub par shooting effort and he missed two ill-advised threes in the final 1:17 with the Thunder barely clinging to the lead. He then fouled out with 14.9 seconds to play — fouling Joel Embiid as he shot a three-pointer. Embiid made all three of his free ones to tie the game at 113. Then…
- With Schroder in at point guard, Billy Donovan elected not to call a timeout after Embiid’s third free throw — then watched as the Sixers pressured the backup into a terrible turnover 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 remaining and fouled a three-point shooter to allow the Sixers to tie, then promptly turned it over and lost the lead with 6.9 to play. George hit a big shot and bailed the team out of another horrific loss (considering the circumstances). However — happy with a win. Funny how that works. (Still don’t feel great about it.)
PG. George was electric in the fourth quarter, scoring 14 of his 31 points on 4-of-7 shooting in the frame. Westbrook fouling out prior to the final shot may have been a total blessing — George stepped up and capped a great quarter with a big shot. Not sure it works out that way in an alternate universe.
Grant & Steve. Jerami Grant led the team with a +25 for the evening, scoring 10 points and adding nine rebounds in another solid outing. Adams recorded 16 points and nine rebounds but finished as a -14 due to being paired with Embiid all game.
Big Time Ferg. Ferguson continued lighting it up from long range, hitting 3-of-6 en route to 11 points for the game. He hit a monster three to put the Thunder up 111-107 with 42 seconds to play and continues firing with confidence. Don’t look now, but he’s averaging 13 PPG on 50 percent three-point shooting over the last five games.
Points in the Paint. Though Philly won 47-45 on the glass and scored 14 second-chance points, the Thunder had a 48-40 advantage in paint scoring. Much better than the last two games.
Free Throws. OKC shot 23-of-26 from the free throw line, good for 88.5 percent. Really nice time to look competent in that department, as a couple more misses here and there would have cost them the game. Nice work, gentlemen.