Sixers 108, Thunder 104: Tobias Harris, Jimmy Butler star as Sixers finally beat Thunder

Sixers 108, Thunder 104: Tobias Harris, Jimmy Butler star as Sixers finally beat Thunder


By day, Philadelphia was overcome by Bryce Harper hysteria, but it was the Sixers' two newly-acquired stars that shined by night.

Tobias Harris and Jimmy Butler led the way as the Sixers snapped a 19-game losing streak to the Oklahoma City Thunder in a 108-104 win at Chesapeake Energy Arena.

The last time the Sixers beat the Thunder was Nov. 15, 2008, a game that featured GM Elton Brand in the starting lineup.

All-Stars Joel Embiid (knee) and Paul George (shoulder) were both out Thursday night.

The victory brings the Sixers to 40-22 on the season.

Here are observations from the win:

• The Sixers’ ball movement was extraordinary at times. The unselfish brand of basketball they're playing is leading to some pretty buckets.

They had 13 assists on 16 makes in the first quarter and 21 on 25 in the first half. To the Thunder's credit, they turned up the defense in the third, going on a 16-4 run late in the period to get them within two and eventually tie the game in the fourth. The Sixers held on and still finished with 33 assists on 42 made field goals. Impressive against a strong defensive basketball team in OKC.

• Before the Phillies got Harper, the Sixers landed Harris. Sometimes you don’t realize how good a player is until you get to watch him on a nightly basis. That is definitely the case for me with Harris. I knew he could play, but man, this guy is really freaking good.

He dropped a Sixers-high 32 points (11 of 19, 5 of 7 from three) after dropping 29 the other night in New Orleans. He hit some enormous buckets down the stretch. He also made two fanastic defensive plays at the rim late in the fourth quarter to help keep the Sixers in front. This was easily his best performance as a Sixer.

As mentioned many times, there is nothing flashy about his game. He can score on all three levels and do so at an elite level. He’s good with the ball. He’s good off the ball. His skills also fit in so well with Ben Simmons’ and Embiid’s. 

Brand pulled a master stroke with this trade and, like Matt Klentak with Harper, will likely look to lock up the 26-year-old for a long time this offseason.

• There’s been a lot of talk about Butler needing to take more shots. Sometimes, that may be the case, but perhaps Butler is fine just the way he is, playing efficient basketball and picking his spots to be aggressive.

Butler isn’t Allen Iverson. He’s not the type of player that needs to jack up 30-plus shots in order to get his. It also looks like Butler has fully embraced the role of facilitator and initiator of the offense. He nearly recorded a triple-double with 20 points, eight rebounds and eight assists.

• Brett Brown has found something with the way he’s been using Simmons recently. Simmons is a doing a ton of damage in the post and that continued against the Thunder.

He was able to bully former Sixer Jerami Grant for an early bucket and consistently took the smaller Russell Westbrook into the weight room. He recorded his ninth triple-double this season with 11 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists.

Simmons also went with the exact same defensive strategy teams use on him against Westbrook. He sagged way off the All-Star guard and allowed him to take as many outside looks as he wanted. It seemed to work as Westbrook went just 8 of 24 for 23 points.

• Jonah Bolden got the start and turned in a solid performance Thursday. He tied a rookie career high with 14 points on 6 of 7 from the field and 2 of 3 from three. More importantly, he played solid defense and, even more importantly, he played disciplined basketball.

The rotational issue that is fair tonight is the decision to play Amir Johnson and not just see what you have in Justin Patton. 

Brown has an allegiance to Johnson and wants to reward the veteran for being a great teammate and continuing to be ready to play. But we all already know what Johnson is. Give the kid a chance and see if he can give you something. You can just as easily pull him out of the game if he looks overmatched.

• With no Embiid and Steven Adams being a beast on the glass, this seemed like a board battle the Sixers would lose, much like last Saturday against the Blazers. But the Sixers did a great job of team rebounding as each team finished with 44 rebounds. Adams had eight offensive boards, but nobody else on the Thunder had one.

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Sixers Talk Podcast: Brett Brown report; should players embrace being villains?

NBC Sports Philadelphia

Sixers Talk Podcast: Brett Brown report; should players embrace being villains?

On this episode of Sixers Talk, Danny Pommells and Paul Hudrick react to the New York Daily News report saying Brett Brown has lost the locker room. How much of the report is believable?

The guys preview Game 3. Should the players embrace being villains?

Also, is it too early to regret trading Landry Shamet?

1:00 - NYDN story on Sixers dysfunction.
13:00 - Looking ahead to Game 3.
16:00 - Should Sixers embrace being villains?
21:00 - Paul's review of "Venom."
23:00 - Any regret trading Shamet?

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Sixers address report Brett Brown has 'lost' team

Sixers address report Brett Brown has 'lost' team

CAMDEN, N.J. — After dropping Game 1, a convincing Game 2 win over Brooklyn seemed to restore order for the Sixers.

Then a scathing article was published Tuesday night, saying that Brett Brown has lost his locker room.

If you want to read the whole story, you can do so. If you’d rather not, here’s a quick recap.

The story alleges that Brown lost his locker room after the Jimmy Butler trade. It talks about an incident involving Joel Embiid and former Sixer and Spur Bruce Bowen after Brown had brought Bowen in to address the team.

It also claims that GM Elton Brand approached ownership about possibly trading Ben Simmons ahead of the deadline. The biggest accusation is that Simmons missed a game in Orlando because he was partying the night before. He was listed as out with a stomach virus in the team’s loss to the Magic.

“I am aware of it. I have not read it and I won’t,” Brown said at the team’s practice facility Wednesday. “I have nothing to say about it.”

Some of the aspects have already been refuted. The alleged incident with Bowen supposedly happened in Portland, but Bowen did not address the team in Portland. It happened in San Antonio, and from the description of the Inquirer's Keith Pompey, it was much ado about nothing. The story also initially said Simmons was in Miami with his girlfriend, Kendall Jenner, but the publication already listed a correction on that, saying Simmons was actually in Orlando with no mention of Jenner.

It was also odd that it mentioned Simmons’ biggest issue with his shot is his refusal to bend his knees. If you’ve watched Simmons through his young career, you know that’s not the most glaring flaw. Simmons’ left elbow flares out on every shot, causing an odd rotation to the ball, leading to the conspiracy theory that he may be right-handed.

Simmons didn’t deny the report, but didn’t want to spend time addressing it.

“Are you talking about the regular season?” Simmons asked the reporter. “OK, no, we’re talking about playoffs, man. Unless you want to talk about something else, somewhere else, but it’s playoffs right now.”

As he walked away from his availability, he did add one more thing.

“It was me, Brett and Monty [Williams] partying.”

Sounds like a good time.

Another thing that seems odd is the timing. This story dropped two days after the team destroyed the Nets in Game 2. Who did the players credit for the team’s turnaround that led to a record-setting 51-point third quarter?

Their coach for chewing them out in the locker room at halftime.

“He expressed it. He called me out a few times where I messed up on plays and yelled at me,” Simmons said. “I love to see that side of him because it motivates me and gives me that energy. It’s great to see that side from Coach.”

Brown downplayed the impact and passed the credit on to his players.

“I think it’s one of the great myths of coaching to think that that’s what coaches do,” Brown said. “You’ve got about so many bullets a year. People that have been around NBA basketball understand that simply. It’s true. You pick and you choose your moments. It wasn’t anything, in my view, that dramatic …

“I think the thing I like most about this group is that they do let me coach them. There’s a togetherness and a locker room respect for one another that I appreciate.”

Several players — most notably the aforementioned Butler — talked about how much they enjoyed seeing that side of Brown. Evidently, it’s not a side he shows often.

But that’s a big part of why it had such an impact. The players knew their coach was not happy. Because he picks and chooses when to use his “bullets,” they have a legitimate effect. 

“Well, you want it to be authentic, too,” JJ Redick said. “That was the big difference for us, seeing that it was legitimate frustration and anger. Anybody can come in and scream and act like they’re mad, but Brett is an authentic guy. It was great to see him in that mode.”

Yeah, seems like we have a real mutiny on our hands.

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