By Harry Allison
No, the Sixers didn’t start a winning streak.
Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder saw to that with a 103-91 victory over on Friday night at the Wells Fargo Center.
But there were bright spots for the Sixers.
Robert Covington (photo above) had 21 points and Michael Carter-Williams contributed 16 points and 14 assists for the Sixers (1-17), who were playing their first game since avoiding equaling the NBA record for losses to start a season with Wednesday’s 85-77 victory at Minnesota.
“There was a physical side of the group tonight, albeit with young guys, that I was proud of,” said coach Brett Brown, whose team dropped to 1-18. “There was no backdown. We had one bad lull in the third period. After that, there was a lot of fight in that young group.”
The Thunder had control of the game throughout but the Sixers never stopped fighting back.
“It’s basketball, it is what it is,” said Carter-Williams of his verbal exchanges with Westbrook, who scored a game-high 27 points and dealt seven assists, to go with six turnovers. “He plays hard for his team, and I go out there and play hard with mine. It gets competitive, the chitchat, you go back and forth. It’s part of the game. I’ve got nothing against him. It just gets intense. There’s pride involved, and after the game it’s all good. It’s fun and I enjoy it.”
Covington came off the bench to lead the Sixers with 21 points, while Luc Mbah a Moute, Nerlens Noel (10 rebounds) and K.J. McDaniels scored 11 each. Henry Sims added 10 points.
“I want him [Covington] to shoot as many open threes as he can. That’s what that kid does,” Brown said. “He’s got a high release. You think he’s covered a little bit, and he goes up an extra few inches and he fades a little bit. He’s actually able to get shots off, and that’s his role on this team. We want him to space the floor. I’m learning with how to use him best and we’re trying to get shooters as much as possible on the floor.”
It was the first win for the Thunder (6-13) with stars Kevin Durant and Westbrook healthy and back in the lineup together.
Durant, the NBA’s reigning MVP, had 10 points while playing in his second game after missing the first 17 with a fractured right foot. After scoring 27 points on 9-for-18 shooting in his return to the court in Tuesday’s 112-104 loss at New Orleans, Durant was in jeopardy of reaching double-figures in scoring for the first time since 2009 before scoring on a layup with 2:41 remaining.
Westbrook, playing in his third game after returning from a broken hand, made 8 of 14 shots.
Serge Ibaka scored 19 points and Jeremy Lamb added 15 for the Thunder, who won their 11th straight against Philly.
The Thunder broke the game open with a 13-3 run to start the second half, capped by Ibaka’s 3-pointer that made it 70-50 with 8:17 left in the third quarter. Ibaka rebounded from scoring a season-low six points on Tuesday.
Philly got as close as seven, 93-86, on Luc Mbah a Moute’s layup with 3:12 left, but the Thunder scored eight straight to go in front 101-86 with 1:37 left and put the game out of reach.
Westbrook looked great in the first half when he scored 14 points to help Oklahoma City take a 57-47 lead at the break.
Durant opened the scoring, draining a 3-pointer 21 seconds into the game. But he missed his three other shots in the first half and finished with five points in 15 minutes. He finished 3 for 11 from the field.