You don’t argue with a team that starts the season 3-13 if, at the time you have to play them, they’re 33-30. The Sixers have been fairly hot of late, closing in on the Knicks for #6 in the East, and they gave the Thunder some seriously scary moments for forty-eight minutes. Then again, while OKC isn’t always at its best toward the end of regulation, they shine in overtime, and tonight in Philadelphia they held the Sixers to 2-9 shooting in those extra five minutes, escaping the Wells Fargo Foreclosure Forum with a 110-105 win.
Telltale statistic: Andre Iguodala rang up fourteen points in a mere 23 minutes, and then didn’t score for the rest of the game. Blame this on Durant, whom the Ig was supposed to be guarding, and on Nick Collison, the Thunder’s glue guy, who stuck to the Sixers like you know what. The Sixers weren’t short of offense — both Jrue Holiday and Lou Williams were good for 22, Jodie Meeks added 17, and wily veteran Eldon Brand picked up 13 points and 15 boards. The Sixers sent up a flurry of treys: seven of them connected in the first half, but only three in the second.
And you have to figure, when Collison posts a double-double (13 points, 10 rebounds), things ought to be going well, especially if there are two others in the box score — see Durant, K., 34 points/16 boards, and Westbrook, R., 27 points/12 dimes. OKC shot an even 50 percent, and if they weren’t quite as proficient as Philly at the long ball, and only hit 12 free throws all night, there’s a lot to be said for collecting 53 rebounds. (Offensive boards were even at 16; if you dream about second-chance points, this was your game.)
So in game 63, the Thunder collect win number 40. (It just dawned on me: only 19 left.) They’re going to see nothing but the East for the next week and a half: at home against the Pistons Friday, on the road to Cleveland, Washington and Miami, and back home for the Bobcats and the Raptors. OKC has done well against the East, posting a 17-6 record; unfortunately, all the playoff foes are in the West. One of them will not be the 15-50 Minnesota Timberwolves, who are the first team officially eliminated from the playoffs this season. We have to play them once more.