The Tobias Harris trade showed its full effect last night as he lead the 76ers to victory over the Thunder with 32 points. It was a matchup of two rosters missing their key players as OKC was without MVP candidate, Paul George, and Philadelphia missing the services of both Joel Embiid and Boban Marjanovic. The 76ers got off to another quick start with their ability to space the floor and open up quality shooting opportunities. For example, the Sixers’ utilized their skill in driving to the basket and drawing in the OKC defenders into the lane, and would then pass out to their open shooters. It was an effective tactic that saw success until the third quarter.
Philadelphia also had an effective transition game through the first half which was predicated by the defense’s skill in limiting the scoring threats of OKC’s offense. One important note was that the Thunder were able to go on scoring runs to keep the score close to single digits. It was the Thunder’s lack of consistency in scoring that prevented them from getting the lead through the first half. Yet, signs began to show of a turnaround late in the 2nd quarter with Jeramy Grant’s coverage of Ben Simmons on defense being able to frustrate the Sixers’ point guard in poor shooting chances. Grant also contributed to the Thunder’s offense both on the perimeter and in the post.
Oklahoma City were finally able stifle the 76ers offense by forcing bad low percentage shots, and increased their efficiency on offense. At this point it was clear that Philly was missing Embiid’s propensity to slow the game down and garner low post high percentage looks. With only four minutes left in the third, the Thunder had gotten the lead down to a mere four points. Led by superstar Russell Westbrook, whose intensity in creating high percentage looks left the Sixers with no true response, the Thunder became increasingly more confident.
It was the fourth quarter where Tobias Harris and Jimmy Butler proved their importance to any postseason run for the 76ers. Harris came up with a few clutch three point shots, one of which came with only three minutes left and extended Philly’s lead to eight points. The team began slowing the game down and made smart and clinical decisions. Simmons was extremely helpful with his passing and defensive skill set in ensuring the Sixers found good chances. Yet, Simmons’ liability at the free throw line, which is nothing new, reared its ugly head in the fourth. His reluctance to want to even want to shoot a free throw resulted in a turnover that could have cost them the game. Kevin McHale pointed out as much on TNT’s broadcast of the game.
The Thunder did have one more run in them, and went on to score seven unanswered, but it was too little too late. Philadelphia finally snapped a nineteen game losing streak against OKC that dated back to the days of the Seattle SuperSonics.