Roberson Gets Redemption, Thunder Escapes from Philly – OKC 119, PHI 117 (3 OT)
By Nick Gallo | Thunder Basketball Writer | firstname.lastname@example.org
PHILADELPHIA-- The symmetry in Philadelphia on Friday night was there for all to see, but with so much tension and such an exhilarating finish, not all of it may have been obvious. Let’s start with the most crucial plays that helped define a marathon road victory for the Thunder in triple-overtime, a 119-117 win over the Philadelphia 76ers.
At the end of the second overtime period, Russell Westbrook and Andre Roberson played give and go, and the Thunder’s defensive stopper tried to go up and under the rim to evade Philadelphia’s shot blocker, Joel Embiid. The shot managed to escape, but Roberson’s face didn’t. With time escaping from the clock, Roberson didn’t get the foul call as his layup fell short.
Five minutes later, in nearly the exact same scenario with just 27.2 seconds left, Westbrook again attacked the middle of the floor and didn’t hesitate to find Roberson. This time the lanky guard slipped all the way under the rim and finished the layup, giving the Thunder a two-point lead with 9.6 seconds remaining.
— OKC THUNDER (@okcthunder) December 16, 2017
“It was just trusting (Roberson). He does a good job of knowing his personnel and knowing what he’s good at. Cutting is one of his strong suits,” Westbrook explained. “It felt great. I told him, ‘next time I’ll hit you again’.”
To finally slay the upstart Sixers, the Thunder needed to come up with one final defensive stop. Roberson again was in the mix, but so was backup center Patrick Patterson. After having not played since the 6:27 mark of regulation, Head Coach Billy Donovan inserted Patterson back into the game with 2:12 to go in the third overtime after starting center Steven Adams fouled out.
Patterson battled with Embiid, fouling him once but standing him up on defense another time to force a missed shot. The versatile big man also made the defensive play of the game for the Thunder, after the 76ers in-bounded the ball with 9.6 seconds to go, switching off instinctively onto a curling J.J. Redick to get a piece of his would-be game-winning three-pointer with 1.2 seconds left. The ball hung lazily in the air, but then Westbrook caught it for the Thunder point guard’s 18th rebound of the night.
“I saw Redick come off for a three, he didn’t have it, and then he came back off Embiid again, and I felt like he was going to shoot it. I just jumped up as he jumped up and I was able to get a hand on it,” Patterson explained.
“Patrick did a great job recognizing and at least getting a hand out and being able to get a piece of the shot,” Donovan added. “He was ready to play and he did some good things for us on both sides of the floor.”
The game truly shouldn’t have even gotten to the first overtime, let alone 15 minutes of extra play. The Thunder led by 11 points with 5:28 to go, at 94-83. Donovan’s club didn’t score for the remainder of regulation, as Westbrook bricked a dunk, then the team took and missed shots from 28 feet, 19 feet, 20 feet, 20 feet, 20 feet, 21 feet and 32 feet, along with three Westbrook layup tries that all rimmed out.
“I give our guys a lot of credit because we had a lot of opportunities to put the game away, certainly in regulation,” Donovan said. “We missed some layups on some stuff at the rim. We had some shots where we could have probably given ourselves in regulation some cushion.”
Watch: Final OT Sequence
The 76ers manufactured offense during those closing minutes and ripped off an 11-0 run to close regulation, and even jumped up by five with 1:21 to go in the first overtime. Great ball movement helped spring a Roberson to Paul George inside-out, catch-and-shoot three-pointer, and then Westbrook took the ball coast to coast on the next play to re-tie the game at 102, which set up the second overtime. Through it all, the Thunder just kept chugging along and grinding it out.
“We just kept it positive. We understood the situation. This is a game we should have won in regulation. This is a game we should win down the stretch,” noted George, who finished with 24 points on 8-for-23 shooting. “We put that in perspective and closed it out.”
He was by no means perfect, but Westbrook was the relentless energy and resolve personified for the Thunder in the extra periods, starting with that little 5-0 burst in the first overtime. Despite shooting 6-for-22 in the 30-minute stretch of the fourth quarter and overtime, it was Westbrook’s relentless energy and perpetual assault on the 76ers defense that helped keep the scoreboard moving long enough to finish the game with a score and a stop. Westbrook registered his 10th triple-double of the season with 27 points, 18 rebounds and 15 assists in 52 minutes of play for his third career game of 15-15-15.
“Well they call him Ironman for a reason right?” Patterson asked rhetorically. “His ability to last out there on the court, not seem to get fazed or get tired, still pushing the ball as if it was the first quarter, still being aggressive as if it’s the first quarter, not letting anything get to him. He’s a remarkable individual. He’s very strong-minded and strong-willed and he just kept battling throughout the whole game.”
“He has great internal belief and confidence in himself. Russell had some opportunities at the rim in regulation and he had some opportunities throughout the overtimes, but the one thing about him is he keeps playing, he keeps persevering and he keeps fighting,” Donovan said of his point guard. “That’s what you have to love about him.”
— FOX Sports Oklahoma (@FOXSportsOK) December 16, 2017
Melo Caught a Rhythm
For most of the early going this season, the Thunder’s three All-Stars have had a hard time seeing the ball go in the basket. Tonight, Carmelo Anthony was back on the east coast, less than 100 miles from the two places where he spent formative years – New York City and Baltimore.
Maybe it was being on the east coast, but much more likely it was Westbrook’s decisiveness and the way he attacked quickly towards the rim before taking jump shots that helped him rack up 24 points on 11-for-17 shooting, including two crucial buckets in the later stages of the game.
“I feel like that’s when he’s at his best,” Donovan noted. “When he’s in space and he’s facing up and he can put it down and make a play he’s really hard to guard”.
Mo Cheeks Honored
Thunder assistant coach and NBA Hall-of-Fame point guard Mo Cheeks was honored by the 76ers on Friday as the team unveiled a statue of him at their practice facility. During the game, a video tribute was shown to commemorate Cheeks’ presence in Philadelphia and the placement of the statue.
By the Numbers
18 – Offensive rebounds for the Thunder to aid a 60-50 rebounding advantage, though the Thunder shot just 3-for-16 on second chance opportunities
19-3 – The Thunder’s advantage in fast break points in the game, where it went 8-for-8 and held Philadelphia to just 1-for-4 shooting
35 – Points for the Thunder’s bench tonight, including 14 points for Raymond Felton, one shy of a season-high
The Last Word
“Tonight we stuck together, got stops on demand when we needed to and won the game… You can’t let your mind get lost in you’re tired or overtime or whatever it is. You have to continue to keep going.” – point guard Russell Westbrook