The Philadelphia 76ers went blow for blow against the Oklahoma City Thunder, but at the very end, they couldn’t come away with a win.
This was a clash of defensive oriented teams with multiple All-Stars. It was like two heavy weight boxers trading blow for blow until the final buzzer sounded. Sadly at the end of the day, the Philadelphia 76ers star, Jimmy Butler, failed to hit a game winning 3-pointer in the final second and the Sixers lost 115-117.
Prior to Butler missing the game winning shot, Philly went back and forth with the Thunder scoring more in the first and third quarters while the Sixers scored more in the second and fourth quarters. Both teams went on runs and the Sixers had a sequence of plays that actually had the team up by two points with less than 10 seconds to go in the fourth. However, Paul George hit a 3-pointer while getting fouled by Butler and converted the four-point-play, which sealed the deal.
The Sixers didn’t help themselves through the game. The team shot 34.4 percent from downtown and turned the ball over 17 times. However, considering how good the Thunder are on defense, it’s no surprise that the Sixers struggled with turnovers. Their defensive rotations caused both Ben Simmons and Butler to struggle in different ways.
Outside of rookies Landry Shamet and Jonah Bolden, the bench unit struggled to produce. T.J. McConnell and Mike Muscala shot a combined 3-10 from the floor. Despite all the struggles, the Sixers were still in the game at the very end, impart thanks to the efforts of Joel Embiid and J.J. Redick.
Now the “B-” grade may seem generous to some, but Butler made several clutch plays that gave the Sixers the chance to win in the fourth. He got a layup against Grant and hit his only 3-pointer late in the fourth. He also stole the pass from Schroder and got the dunk for the Sixers to take a 115-113 lead under a minute. In the end, he fouled George on the 3-point that gave the Thunder the lead. Butler’s overall stats were poor,; he tried his best to win for the Sixers at the end of the game.
There’s no doubt that the turnovers plagued Ben Simmons this game. Westbrook picked his pocket a few times and the Thunder, overall, did a good job forcing the ball lose from Simmons’ hands. On the positive side, Simmons attacked the offensive boards and ended with six offensive rebounds along with several put back slams.
The biggest thing that Embiid failed to do was keep Adams off the offensive glass. Adams ended the game with seven offensive rebounds. Granted the Sixers big man is still dealing with a bad back, it’s understandable if he didn’t want to bang with a hulk like Adams in the paint. Outside the rebounding, Embiid played extremely well and even shot three free throws after being fouled by Westbrook late in the fourth. It helped tie the game at 113 a piece.
The Sixers couldn’t have had asked for Redick to do much more. He shot well from all over the floor and minimized his turnovers. The veteran was his team’s second leading scorer behind Embiid. Overall he did his job perfectly, it just didn’t result in a win.
Wilson Chandler struggled on both ends of the floor. Don’t let the two blocks and one steal fool you, George took advantage of his matchup against Chandler. The offense wasn’t there either. Chandler ended with four points on 1-4 shooting from downtown.
The Sixers played decent defense, but it only took one of the Thunders top four offensive weapons to get hot for a stretch. Sometimes, the Thunder relied on George, like at the end of the game. Other times they would rely on Russell Westbrook or Dennis Schroder. It was just enough to beat the Sixers.
This game was also a reunion of sorts with the Thunder having three former Sixers player. Jerami Grant is now starting for the Thunder and is having a career year. Nerlens Noel is a solid backup for Steven Adams and while Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot isn’t getting regular playing time, he’s important for the Thunder’s depth.
Hopefully, the Philadelphia 76ers can take this loss as a lesson and learn from it, like Simmons suggested after the game according to Serena Winters of NBCSPhilly. It’s doubtful that Butler’s gonna have a lot of bad shooting performances like the one he had against the Thunder. Close loses like these usually make or break a team and hopefully, it will help build the Sixers for the upcoming playoffs.