This game figured to be close: whatever oddsmaker supplies Yahoo! gave the nod to the 76ers (14-13) over the Thunder (13-14) by one. That said, OKC took an early lead, ran it to as many as 17, but found themselves on the tail end of a 9-0 Philly run that tied it up at 94 with 53 seconds left. Just before the buzzer, Carmelo Anthony got himself open and delivered a 26-footer that refused to go in. Overtime ensued, as it will, and the Sixers drew first blood. With 8 seconds left in overtime and a 102-all tie, a rather long replay analysis determined that the ball, before going out of bounds, last touched Steven Adams instead of Joel Embiid; Dario Šarić tossed up an airball right before the horn, and suddenly there’s five minutes more to play. It was 111-all with 1.2 seconds left, an eyelash of a time which official Ed Malloy apparently obtained through the miracle of rectal extraction long after the horn; the third overtime began thereafter. Adams fouled out shortly thereafter. With 9.6 left, Andre Roberson came up with a bucket; J. J. Redick had a nice open trey just before the horn, but Patrick Patterson, replacing Adams, swatted it away, and after Russell Westbrook missed two free throws, Patterson retrieved the ball and the Thunder won 119-117 in a mere 63 minutes. Which wouldn’t be a bad thing, except OKC has to head up to New York in the next half-hour or so.
The Westbrook line was even more startling than usual: 27-18-15, another triple-double, but he hit only five of 12 free throws and ten of 33 shots from the floor. (Knock that latter expression out of the team aggregate, and the rest of the team shot a bit over 46 percent. Three-pointers came down at a respectable rate: 15-35, 42 percent. The Sixers peppered the place, to little avail: 13 of 46. But Philly hit the normal stuff at a 44-percent rate, 2.4 percent over OKC.
The Sixers’ roster this year is a mix of raw youngsters and savvy veterans, and the starting five all showed in double figures while playing 48-plus minutes each; Embiid surpassed everyone with 34. Double-doubles for Robert Covington (11/10 boards) and Ben Simmons (12/11 dimes). About the only thing Philly didn’t show me was swingman Timothé Luwawu-Cabarrot, which disappoints me mostly because I wanted to hear radio guy Matt Pinto try to say “Timothé Luwawu-Cabarrot.”
The usual boys in blue contrbuted their usual share of the Thunder offense: Westbrook 27, Anthony 24 (11-17), and Paul George 24 (8-23). George played the least, a mere 45 minutes, but it’s going to be a long slog across New Jersey to get to Madison Square Garden.