The Sixers fell to their fifth loss in seven games Friday night, a 127-119 overtime defeat to the Thunder that will sting.
They had a chance to take the lead on their final possession of regulation but couldn’t generate a good shot, with Joel Embiid settling for a long two from the left wing late in the shot clock. Especially given the high volume of whistles being blown in the final few minutes, the Sixers surely would have preferred an Embiid drive or post-up on Steven Adams in that spot. Danilo Gallinari missed a jumper that would have won it for Oklahoma City at the buzzer.
In overtime, Tobias Harris fouled out with 2:48 to go, and the Sixers wilted from that point.
Embiid, who’d missed Wednesday’s loss to the Magic (injury management/left knee soreness), had 31 points and 12 rebounds in the loss, while Josh Richardson scored 28, his most as a Sixer, on 10 for 15 shooting. Gallinari (28 points) and Chris Paul (27) led the Thunder.
The Sixers play the Cavaliers next, on Sunday at 3 p.m. (NBCSP+).
Here are observations from Friday’s loss:
The gang gets back together
For the first time since last Wednesday in Utah, the Sixers’ normal starting five opened the game together.
They won their first six-minute stretch, 14-8, with good ball and player movement out of the post against the smaller Thunder. And, when Embiid exited in the first quarter, Al Horford was excellent as the playmaking hub of the offense in the half court.
Before Friday night, they’d played just 42 minutes as a unit, posting a plus-15.2 net rating.
The starters’ spacing and sense of each other on the floor are clearly nowhere near where they’d like it to be yet, but the defensive potential and massive team size are still there. It’s worth tracking how this experiment develops over time, and frankly, they simply haven’t had much time yet.
Harris stops his skid
It didn’t take long for Harris to break his slump of 23 straight misses from three-point range. He nailed a jumper from the left corner a little over two minutes into the game off a nice post feed from Ben Simmons. Horford set an effective weak side screen on a sleepy Terrance Ferguson, too.
the evidence.— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) November 16, 2019
You love to see it pic.twitter.com/i8jTXxchJ6
A historically above-average shooter like Harris — or just about any NBA player, for that matter — was eventually going to make a three again.
Of course, he followed up his streak of misses by making two in a row.
The Sixers’ turnovers are a persistent problem. They had eight in the first half vs. the Thunder, ranging from a forced entry pass by Matisse Thybulle to Horford in the high post to a careless lob by Simmons to Horford that thudded off the underside of the backboard.
Free throw disparity has been a significant issue the last two games. With the Thunder earning 20 more points from the foul line Friday, the Sixers have now allowed 52 more points than they’ve scored on free throws this season.
Those two factors were the main reasons why Oklahoma City was able to turn an 11-point first-quarter deficit into a five-point halftime lead. With the volume of free points they’ve given opponents, it’s been difficult for the Sixers to take control of games.
Another milestone for Embiid
Embiid passed 4,000 career points Friday, becoming the second fastest Sixer to do so — Wilt Chamberlain was the quickest.
He’s the one Sixers starter shooting above his career average from three-point territory. After a 4 for 8 night in Oklahoma City, Embiid is shooting 41.2 percent from long distance.
Though he held the ball too long on several possessions, Embiid mostly made smart decisions out of the post. He turned it over only once, while Horford went 36 minutes without a turnover.
Embiid was, however, not aggressive enough in rolling to the rim, and in sealing deep when he had favorable matchups. He lingered around the perimeter too often in the fourth quarter and overtime.
A mixed bag for Simmons
It was far from a flawless performance — he had five turnovers and was too passive at times offensively — but Simmons was mostly a positive for the Sixers.
In addition to his offensive production, Simmons defended Shai Gilgeous-Alexander well, although the Thunder guard picked it up in the second half.
Simmons also converted four straight free throws after missing his first two, which brings him to 55.9 percent on the year.
As usual, he was dangerous on the fast break.
SLAMMINJAMMINJOSH.— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) November 16, 2019
Simmons with the nice find to a streaking Richardson for the jam! pic.twitter.com/QmKdZdWYnp
A bad night for the bench
Furkan Korkmaz filled in for Richardson for much of the fourth quarter and did not fare well, being beaten off the dribble on several occasions. It was the same story in overtime after Harris fouled out. He also shot just 1 for 7 on the night.
In total, the Sixers’ bench hit 4 of 15 shots and was outscored by Oklahoma City’s second unit, 22-11.
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