By Connor Mackenzie @grandepadre94
It was only three days ago the Thunder got smacked at home by the Bron-less Lakers in Overtime, the fifth loss in six games. There was an unsettling presence amongst Thunder fans as “Lets Go Lakers” chants began to fill the arena.
With their struggles painted on theplayers’ faces, the Thunder needed to pull out a victory as they begin adifficult stretch over the next eight days. The Thunder nearly gave away thegame after Westbrook fouls out after smacking Joel Embiid on the arm from 3. Heknocks down all three free throws and the Thunder throw the ball away to JimmyButler who puts the Sixers up 115-113 with 6.9 seconds left. Billy Donovan usedhis final timeout to draw up a play for Paul George and boy did he deliver.Paul George slips off a punishing Steven Adams screen and hits the shot fromdeep and called game. He also got contact from Jimmy Butler and calmly knockeddown the free throw to lead Oklahoma City to a 117-115 victory overPhiladelphia.
Paul George on the final play via@royceyoung ESPN.com reporter, “I’ve got the best screener [in the league]cleaning my guy for me to get a free catch up top,” George said.”We’ve run it so many times this year. We’ve ran it to a T — I’ve madeit, I’ve missed it. But that’s a big-time play for us.”
George was incredible in the 4th with14 points on 4-7 shooting (3-3 from deep). He again proves to be the steady,often forceful pace Oklahoma City needs.
The Thunder (27-18) extend their winstreak over the Sixers (30-17) to 19 games dating back to 2008. Today was anencouragement for Thunder fans as their defense showed great flashes throughoutthe game.
George chipped in 31 points, 6rebounds, 5 assists and 3 steals. He was sensational in the 4th Quarter afterstruggling to find his rhythm in the 3rd. George ignited for 14 points in 4thto push the Thunder to a much needed victory against the surging 76ers.
Jerami Grant had a tough earned 10points and 9 rebounds, but helped hold Jimmy Butler and Wilson Chandler to acombined 6-22 shooting. Grant is further proving his worth with his versatilityand effort on both ends of the floor.
Dennis Schroder found his touchtonight with 21 points on 8-18 shooting. The Thunder bench outscored the 76ersbench 27-20.
The Thunder defense was present moretoday than it has been in recent games, turning over Philadelphia 19 times to28 assists. Meanwhile OKC had 20 assists but to only 10 turnovers. This was afantastic turnaround from Thursday’s contest against the Lakers. However, thestretch for Oklahoma City does not get any easier with matchups such asPortland, New Orleans, and Milwaukee coming up this week.
Steven Adams was 8-13 from the fieldfor 16 points and had 9 rebounds (7 Offensive), much more aggressive with histouches when he got them.
I’d be livid if I did not mention howRIDICULOUS Terrance Ferguson has been lately. Over the last 10 games, he has 24makes from behind the arc at a 48.8 percent rate. To give readers someperspective as to how much of a leap he’s made, Ferguson did not make 24 threesTOTAL until February 14th against the Grizzlies last season. The second yearman from Tulsa is becoming a solid 3 and D player for the Thunder.
Oklahoma City greatly improved theireffort and intensity againstPhiladelphia, but must string together these performances on a nightly basis ifthey hope to maintain a top playoff seed.
The Thunder were 23-26 from the foulline and pounded 48 points in the paint. OKC shot 44 percent from the field andan impressive 39 percent from deep.