Sixers get pushed around by the Thunder in disappointing loss

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Oklahoma City Thunder’s Shai Gilgeous-Alexander goes up for a shot during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Philadelphia 76ers, Thursday, Jan. 12, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Last night’s game between the Sixers and Thunder featured a veteran team with title aspirations and limited draft assets, while the other had a roster full of young players and a load of draft picks. One team’s average age is 23, and the other is almost 27. The victor wasn’t who you’d expect, especially holding home court. 

Sixers vs Thunder Recap

It was a rough night for Philly fans as the Oklahoma City Thunder frustrated the Philadelphia 76ers from the start. 

Shai Gigeous-Alexander entered the Wells Fargo Center yesterday as if he owned the building and walked out in the same manner. The Sixers had no answer for him and the other young stallions for OKC. Philadelphia may have assumed they could replicate the style of play from the Pistons win earlier this week, but the Thunder were far more prepared than Detroit.

In the first half, the Sixers got down early but came back after solid play from Tyrese Maxey, James Harden, and Joel Embiid. The Thunder set the tone with stellar perimeter shooting and Tre Mann’s athletic playmaking. SGA was also toying with Sixers defenders, who could not do enough in the first half to thwart OKC runs throughout the game. 

Philly’s bench stepped up in the first half, contributing defensively and supplying energy to close the gap OKC had established. Then, the Thunder went to a zone defense, which caught the Sixers off guard and forced poor decisions.

Although Maxey and Harden had a productive first half, the Sixers found themselves down 10 points.

A subplot in this game was the return of Isaiah Joe. The former Sixer seemed out of sorts and did not have the homecoming performance he probably hoped for since being released by the 76ers. Although he entered the game sixth in 3-point shooting percentage (43.5), he didn’t hit a single three and had only seven points. Yet, he contributed more than P.J. Tucker for the Sixers.

The veteran 3-and-D acquisition was invisible against the Thunder, attempting only one field goal in 21 minutes and securing two rebounds. Matisse Thybulle was also a no-show in this game, except for a nice block on Mike Muscala.

The second half was more of the same. The Sixers made a surge, only to succumb to the youthful play of the studs on OKC’s roster. Tre Mann, Josh Giddey, and SGA had the ball on a string, swinging the ball around the perimeter and executing in the paint or behind the 3-point line. Even a Sixers zone defense couldn’t sustain a fourth quarter run that teased the home crowd. 

After OKC began the half, shooting 0-for-4, they went 8-for-8 right after the slow start. Embiid was in foul trouble early, bit getting good looks. On the other end, he was left alone to protect the paint. He finished with a double-double (30 points and 10 rebounds), and Harden put up similar numbers (24 points and 15 assists).

As the boos rained down near the end, any optimism sparked from Maxey’s elevated play since returning and Paul Reed’s dynamic play in the paint dissipated into the night. It left the arena with the lines of dejected fans, along with SGA carrying the keys to the Wells Fargo Center. The final score was 114-133, the 76ers falling to the young Thunder.

Next up for the Sixers is the Utah Jazz. They play in Salt Lake City on Saturday night.