Derrick Favors
(Jesse D. Garrabrant | NBAE via Getty Images)

Game Recap: Thunder at 76ers

Highlights: OKC at PHI

By Paris Lawson | Broadcast and Digital Reporter | okcthunder.com

THE BIG PICTURE

The Thunder went toe-to-toe with the bigger, more veteran 76ers on Friday night. Oklahoma City forced a tie ball game after the first quarter and even after falling behind by as many as 19 points, the Thunder kept its foot on the gas and forced Philly into a close battle in the fourth quarter. Though the Thunder fell 100-87, its defense forced Philadelphia to earn each point it put on the board. 

MOMENTS FROM THE 48

A Fight to the Finish

There’s a difference between strength and physicality and though Philadelphia held the advantage in the strength department against the Thunder, OKC matched them in physicality from the outset.

The way OKC defended Joel Embiid and limited Philly’s paint production throughout the night proved to be a prime example of that physical mindset. Embiid was met with a crowd of Thunder defenders each time he touched the ball and although he finished with a game high 25 points, it took him 25 shots to do so. 

(Tim Nwachukwu | NBAE via Getty Images)

Additionally, the Thunder’s defense forced Philly to shoot just 28 percent from the paint in the first quarter which allowed OKC to force a tied ball game after the first  12 minutes of action. 

Untimely turnovers in the third quarter allowed the 76ers to pull away and generate its largest lead of the night. However, a 19-8 run initiated entirely by the Thunder’s second unit pulled the game to within two possessions with two minutes left in the ball game. 

The 76ers responded with decisive baskets in crunch time to maintain its margin and secure its 100-87 win, but the Thunder took strides forward in its goal of playing with physicality despite being the undersized team. 

“Physicality’s a choice,” said Thunder head coach Mark Daigneault. “They're stronger, they're bigger. We can't control that, but we can control physicality. We can control competing together and I thought tonight we hit first on a lot of plays, and we competed together and we made them play against us.”

NBA Firsts

After signing a two-way deal with the Thunder on Thursday, Oklahoma native and former Oklahoma State guard Lindy Waters III made his NBA debut with the Thunder at the 30 second mark of the first quarter. During his 29 games with the Oklahoma City Blue this season, the Norman product averaged 11.7 points, 4.5 rebounds and shot an efficient 51 percent from the field and 55 percent from the field. 

In addition to Waters, the Thunder saw action from Vít Krejčí for the first time since November after battling through an ankle sprain and battling back from a torn ACL throughout the offseason. With just over seven minutes left in the fourth quarter, Krejčí scored his first field goal of his NBA career on a dunk in transition. He wasn’t done there. The 6-foot-8 rookie scored on the very next possession on a dump off pass from Kenrich Williams that helped fuel the flames of OKC’s fourth quarter run that broughT the team back to single digits in crunch time. 

“He's a hooper, so he was really itching to get out there,” said Daigneault. “I give him a lot of credit for how hard he worked to get himself back to this point just to be able to go in a game, get his first points. He gave us a nice lift there.”

Big Night from Big Fav

Tasked with the difficult assignment of checking Joel Embiid throughout the night, Thunder big man Derrick Favors put together a strong performance on both ends of the floor. Favors finished the night with a season high 16 points to go along with nine rebounds. The center went 6-fot-7 from inside the paint and also converted several offensive rebounds into six second chance points on the night.

“I thought Favors was really good tonight,” said Daigneault. “I give him a lot of credit from a professionalism standpoint, he's just ready no matter what we do with him.”

Baze on Both Ends

Thunder forward Darius Bazley found himself in the face of what the Thunder refer to as a “moment of truth.” He was the last line of defense that stood between NBA MVP-candidate Joel Embiid and a wide-open one, handed dunk. Embiid set his sights on big intentions to make a mark on the rim, but Bazley didn’t back down. Bazley fearlessly elevated chest-to-chest with Embiid and blocked the 7-footer’s dunk attempt as both tumbled to the ground. Bazley was issued a foul for the contest, but the foul was worth the message sent to the 76ers in that game: those plays won’t be coming east in this one. 

“They called it a foul, but it kind of set the tone for the whole game,” said Favors. “I think we fed off that.”

For the night, Bazley would finish with his fourth double-double of the season with 14 points to go along with a season-high 15 rebounds.

“He was all over the glass tonight,” said Daigneault. “He was meeting Embiid at the rim. He was guarding Harris. Then tomorrow he's gonna turn around and guard [Zach] LaVine and [DeMar] DeRozan. The versatility is impressive.”

“I try to make an effort to compete at the rim anytime that I can,” said Bazley. “Obviously, not every play I'm not going be able to, but I try to contest shots, alter them and change decisions.”

THE LAST WORD

WHAT'S NEXT 

The Thunder closes out its back-to-back back in the Central Time Zone to face the Chicago Bulls on Saturday. From there, the team will head out to the Big Apple to square off against the New York Knicks for the second and final time this season on Valentine’s Day.