Thunder strike again in Philly, George hits game winner: Five thoughts
By Alberto Bodei, Staff Writer
The Oklahoma City Thunder defeated the Philadelphia 76ers in an incredible matchup, 117-115 the final score.
In the past two seasons, every time these two teams met, it has been an intense battle. Once again Oklahoma City came away with a win, a very big win, the 19th win in a row against the 76ers.
The game has been incredibly fun to watch. The Thunder held the lead for most of the first part of the game. During the first quarter, Oklahoma City took control of the game, as it does very often, before giving up a few points when the second unit came in. After leading 31-15, the Thunder relaxed, and Philadelphia took advantage and closed the quarter on a 7-2 run. After another poor second quarter's performance by the Thunder, the 76ers were able to cut the deficit to only three points going into the long break.
After half time the Thunder bounced back, played solid defense and create some space, nine points, to finish the quarter. All of this looked like a movie which every Thunder fan has already seen many times this season. Oklahoma City would play a great third quarter, take control of the game, before giving it all up in the fourth and ending up losing. Well, it almost happened again. With a three points lead and 14.9 seconds left, Russell Westbrook fouled Joel Embiid on a three points attempt. Embiid scored all the three free throws, the Schröder proceeds to throw away the ball, and Butler who stole the pass, scores to give the 76ers a 115-113 lead with 6.9 seconds left.
Game over? Almost. Out of the time out the ball goes to Paul George as he drains the three-pointer plus a foul. George will hit the free-throw while Butler on the other end will miss the game winner.
Paul George, clutch
Is Paul Geroge the best player this season on this Thunder team? I think he might really be. He had another outstanding performance on both ends of the floor through the whole game. What's impressive when I watch Paul George, it's that he is not only a great offensive player, but he can lock down anybody on defense. George's final stat line: thirty-one points (8-20 FG, 4-9 3PT, 11-11 FT), six rebounds, five assists, three steals, and only one turnover. In the fourth quarter, PG scored fourteen points while shooting 4-7 from the floor, 3-4 from behind the arc, and 3-3 from the free throw line. Also, how about that game-winning shot?
Steven Adams, a beast
Steven Adams should get more touches on offense in the second half. He should take more shots because he is a force and he can score. Also, Adams vs Embiid is probably one of the best and most entertaining matchups in the whole league. Two fearless centers who will go at each other in the post every time they can. In the first half, Adams did an outstanding job on Embiid on defense while also making some great moves on offense. In the second half mostly Adams tried to contain Embiid and fought on every offensive rebound. Steven finished the game with sixteen points (8-13 FG), nine rebounds (seven on offense), three assists, one steal, two blocks. Another impressive performance.
Terrence Ferguson, 3&D
Twenty years old, full of confidence, and highly skilled. Yes, Terrence Ferguson is transforming into the 3 and D player which Oklahoma City has always looked for. Against Philly, Ferguson finished the game with eleven points (4-8 FG, 3-6 3PT), three rebounds, two assists, one steal. He did an outstanding job defensively on Redick and Donovan rewarded his effort by letting him close today's game.
Interesting stat from Michele Berra: Since December 1st, Ferguson is shooting 44% from three on 3.3 attempts per game (twenty-two games).
Russell Westbrook, classic game
This has been a typical Russell Westbrook game. In one play he amazes you, and the next one he makes you wonder about any decision he takes. He took a couple of bad three-pointers down the stretch before making a great play to get Ferguson a clutch shot from behind the arc. Then again, he committed the silly foul that allowed Embiid to tie the game and he fouled out. Westbrook finished the game with twenty-one points (8-21 FG, 1-6 3PT, 4-7 FT), ten rebounds, six assists, one steal, and four turnovers.
Second Unit works in progress
There are a lot of positives coming out of this game, but once again the second unit struggles, especially on the defensive end of the floor. Nerlens Noel is the only player who can play consistently on that end, but he is not much of an offensive threat. The opposite is Dennis Schröder, who can score but has trouble defending. The rest of the bench is not trustable, especially against tough opponents. Patterson has ups and downs offensively while his defense is below average. If Nader can play some minutes here and there, Diallo is becoming unplayable. That's a problem because that's all OKC has from the bench until Abrines and Roberson are coming back.
The Oklahoma City Thunder will play in New York, against the Knicks, on Monday morning. Tip-off 11.30 pm CT.