By Michael Bennett
The Sixers and the Oklahoma City Thunder gave NBA fans an early Christmas present last night at the Wells:
One of the most entertaining games in the history of the league!
Russell Westbrook had 27 points, 17 rebounds and 15 assists, and the Thunder and the Sixers went basket-for-basket in a three-overtime thriller before OKC pulled out a 119-117 victory.
Andre Roberson scored the winner with 10 seconds left for the Thunder. But one of the early contenders for game of the year belonged to Joel Embiid and Westbrook as they drove, blocked and rebounded their way toward one big play after another.
Embiid scored 34 in 48 minutes with an achy back and rallied the Sixers from a 17-point hole.
Embiid, Philly’s franchise center and social media star, grabbed his lower back after he took a hard foul on a drive to the basket in the fourth quarter. He grimaced during timeouts on the bench and trudged into position a few times.
Embiid sucked it up and carried the Sixers in the fourth quarter and the first overtime. His feed to a charging Ben Simmons on the baseline for a two-handed dunk tied the score at 94 with 53 seconds left in the quarter. The Sixers closed the fourth on an 11-0 run.
Embiid scored the first bucket of OT as the Sixers led for the first time in the game. The Sixers’ five-point lead with 1:20 left in overtime was wiped out on Paul George’s 3-pointer and a Westbrook basket that tied it at 102. The Sixers blew their final possession on an ill-conceived 3 for Dario Saric.
Round 2 was just as fun.
Westbrook and Robert Covington exchanged 3s, and George tied it at 109 on a driving layup. Westbrook and Embiid swapped baskets that kept it even. The 76ers had one more chance to win it with 1.2 seconds to go in the second OT but failed to convert.
Embiid and Westbrook combined to score eight straight points in the third overtime, and Embiid even waved goodbye as the crowd went wild when OKC’s Steve Adams fouled out.
After the game, Westbrook returned the favor, waiving goodbye to Embiid.
“I was telling him to go home,” Westbrook said. “He was waiving to the crowd, which is unnecessary, waiving to (Adams) bye, and now it’s time for him to go home.”