By: Kylan Watson
The Oklahoma City Thunder faced off against the Philadelphia 76ers tonight looking to get back in the win column after a heartbreaking loss to the Miami Heat last night. They played like a team that was desperate for a win as Shai Gilgeous-Alexander shot the Sixers right off their home-floor and led his team to the 133-114 victory.
Philly did not have it tonight they missed their first couple of shots in the first quarter and did not make up for it on the defensive end. OKC took full advantage of being the younger more athletic team as they would grab a rebound and use their quickness to get easy lay-ups with the Sixers defense not set-up to defend against it. Those run-outs led to easy three-point and perimeter shot opportunities when the defense would collapse to stop it. Shai Gilgeous -Alexander took full advantage he scored 37-points tonight and nobody that the Sixers had available tonight could stop him in tonight’s contest. Whoever was on him got into foul trouble very quickly as he used his quickness to catch them off balance, so they had no choice but to foul him. When the paint was closed off, he would rise up from the perimeter and hit a jump shot. They had to resort to playing a zone defense to keep him from attacking the paint and play the percentages to get back in this game.
Despite the explosion from SGA this game was still there for the Sixers to turn into a win. It just was not met to be tonight as they could not take advantage of their three-point opportunities. They only hit 30.6% of their three-pointers tonight. That just is not going to cut it against a young and tough Thunder squad that was threatening to run them off the court. Joel Embiid (30-points) and James Harden (24-points) did their best to keep their team in the game combining for 54 of Philly’s 114-points, but they needed some more help and did not get it tonight. The Sixers have got to find a way to still keep their defensive intensity when they do not have it on the defensive end. They cannot keep relying on Joel Embiid to bail them out when the perimeter defender gets blown by the opposing player. It happened numerous times tonight and put Embiid on the bench with foul trouble. Had the perimeter defense been stronger tonight maybe Philly would have got their second win of the season against the Thunder, instead of splitting the series tonight. It has to improve if they want to get far come playoff time. The offensive capabilities of Joel Embiid and James Harden is not going to make-up for bad defensive effort and against young athletic teams this problem shows up way more. They have to communicate and stay attached to their man especially with a healthy dose of strong backcourts coming up in this west coast road trip that begins on Saturday.
On his team’s defensive performance, “This was just a bad effort from our team and we all need to take responsibility — me, everybody — and be better next game,” said Sixers Head Coach Doc Rivers.
The Sixers will now prepare to face the Utah Jazz on Saturday night. They will need to find a way to get more balanced scoring if they want to keep-up with the young Jazz squad that is coming back down to earth after a strong start to the season. However, they will shoot the Sixers off the floor if they aren’t strong on the defensive end. Each defender will have to stay on the man and communicate to make sure they are forcing the Jazz into hard shots and not easy ones. If they want to get their 26th victory of the season and have a strong start to this West Coast road trip.