By Tommy Matthews
If this is the way the Sixers want their fans to remember them before they leave town for a five-game roadie:
Dropping a turd makes perfect sense!
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scored 37 points and Josh Giddey had 20 to lead the Thunder to a 133-114 win over the Sixers, just their sixth road win of the season.
Joel Embiid had 30 points and 10 rebounds. James Harden had 24 points and 15 assists.
Embiid got to work late in the fourth to give the Sixers a shot. The reigning NBA scoring champ dunked. He bullied his way toward a bucket. He sank a couple of free throws. OKC’s lead shrunk and Philly fans got loud.
The Thunder stood their ground. They made 31 of 33 free throws and sealed the win from the line down the stretch.
Just two days after the 76ers thumped Detroit by 31, they let the Thunder shoot 54% in the third. The Thunder, who had the youngest roster in the league on opening night, led 101-85.
“We’re a good defensive team, but we did not defend tonight,” 76ers coach Doc Rivers said. “I guess the one common theme overall is just getting beat off the dribble into the point. On those nights, we struggle. Honestly, on those nights, every team struggles. They got into the paint over and over again.”
The Thunder opened the statistical midway point of the season just 1½ games out the Western Conference play-in tournament and only three games out of the sixth seed. Reaching the No. 6 seed would ensure they miss the play-in tournament.
The Thunder showed why — even under .500 — they’re at least sniffing a playoff run. They hit 8 3s the first half and Gilgeous-Alexander scored 17 points as they built a 15-point lead. Embiid played only 10 minutes because of foul trouble.
“I think the competitiveness of the team has come from our players and our locker room,” Daigneault said. “Those guys are ambitious and they’re willing to do it together. When the ball goes up most nights, they’re ready to compete.”