By Randy Renner, Senior Writer
They call Philadelphia the City of Brotherly Love but the Thunder don’t plan to show the 76ers any of that tonight.
Come in, pound the home team into submission by no later than the end of the third quarter, get the starters some early rest and hit the road for the airport and the flight to Indianapolis for Saturday’s game against the Pacers.
The last thing the Thunder want tonight is for the main guys to have to play extended minutes against the worst team (9-58) in the NBA. OKC has won as many games on Friday nights this season as the 76ers have on all nights this season.
The Thunder have won 13 straight against the Sixers, a team that despite a string of high draft pics just continues to struggle. Some of the players picked in those spots have suffered serious injuries and some just haven’t turned out to be as good as the 76ers thought they would be.
So Philly’s rebuilding process just stretches on and on.
Meanwhile the Thunder may have finally found themselves, after struggling to a 4-8 record in the first 12 games after the All-Star break OKC is coming off two straight dominating wins over playoff teams.
OKC has cut way down on turnovers and is playing better defense too, especially on the perimeter. Over the last nine games Thunder opponents are shooting just 25 percent from beyond the arc.
“Even during this stretch after the break I really thought we’d been playing better it just wasn’t translating to results on the floor,” Billy Donovan said the other night.
Now it is, or at least it has, these last two games.
Overall this season, the Thunder continue to be second in scoring in the NBA, averaging 110.1 points a game while the Sixers lag way behind at 97.1. The Thunder offense should have no trouble scoring against Philly and the 76ers may very well struggle to get much on the board against OKC.
The biggest question for the Thunder tonight may be the mindset of guard Dion Waiters. He spent about a week in Philadelphia after the shooting death of his brother before rejoining the team Monday evening. Now he’s back in Philly with distractions all around.
"It's another game but I get a chance to be with my family, be around my little brothers and sisters," Waiters said. "You just try to cherish the moment because you just never know. You never know what type of situation you're going to be in as far as like family, anything can happen."
The Thunder flew to Philadelphia right after Wednesday’s win in Boston and Waiters used the extra day in his hometown to present a $10,000 check to Stanton Elementary in his old neighborhood. A new playground is needed Waiters had pledged to help.The Thunder wrote a check for $2,500 and most of Waiters’ teammates showed up at the presentation ceremony to support Dion and thrill the kids.
Waiters hopes to make a difference and try to prevent, as best he can, other young people from falling victim to Philly’s mean streets like his brother Demetrius did.
So who knows what Waiters may be thinking about tonight but chances are it will have a lot to do with brotherly love.