Jan 25, 2014, 10:15 PM EDT
No shame in this one. The Philadelphia 76ers scrapped their little hearts out tonight, and lost to a team that will probably be kicking themselves for actually having to try all the way through the fourth quarter. Kevin Durant added another line item to his MVP resume (though one that probably wouldn’t even make the first page at this point), Serge Ibaka was all COME BACK WHEN YOU HAVE A TEAM at the basket, and you only get so many miracle wins over obviously better squads in a season, of which the Sixers have clearly used up their entire allotment. Fair enough as far as I’m concerned.
Kevin Durant. Just…geez. He didn’t even seem like he was trying all that hard, and there weren’t any stretches of him hitting a spate of contested threes in a row or anything, but what is there to say about 32 points (on 12-17 shooting!), 14 rebounds and ten assists in a double-digit road win? The game is just coming to Kevin Durant at a different speed–or perhaps more accurately, Kevin Durant is going AT the game at a different speed–than everyone else right now, and you’re going to need to play just about a perfect game to beat him. The Sixers were good tonight, but perfect they were not, and the victory was not ever really in doubt for OKC.
Not to say that it was entirely a solo effort from the visitors tonight. Ibaka was willing and able as his second-in-command, accounting for a healthy chunk of Durant’s ten dimes with his mid-range proficiency, ending with 25 points on 12-16 shooting and 11 boards. Ibaka’s real contributions came on the defensive end, though, as he racked up five blocks–three in about the first five minutes of the games, and all authoritative SWATS–and generally made scoring at the basket at best an Option D for the Sixers. I wasn’t hugely sold on Ibaka’s case as an All-Star before tonight, but I will protest no longer. Dude’s a best.
Nobody on the Sixers even came close to matching the production of the Thunder’s top two tonight, but they certainly tried their damnedest to make it a game anyway. The Sixers’ hustle was really quite heartening tonight, as they were blitzing on defense, scrambling for deflections and loose balls all over the court, running till their lungs gave out and attacking the basket like scoring their was a legitimate possibility, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. They didn’t have the scoring skill to get it done tonight against OKC’s elite D–and indeed, shot under 38% for the contest–but they were able to storm back just about any time the Thunder looked a basket away from calling it a night, and kept it to an improbable single-digit deficit even late in the fourth.
On a night in which no Sixer really had an exceptional outing, I’d like to take a moment to salute the play of one James Anderson. In the eight games before tonight in which he’d been re-inserted into the starting lineup, JA was averaging a solid ten points and five rebounds on over 50% shooting, and he added to that with a team-high 19 (on 7-16 shooting) and another five boards. He also picked up three steals, and was the team’s most active player on both ends of the floor and in transition, picking the team up with his energy on multiple occasions. Turns out, James Anderson can do some stuff.
Ironically, the one thing he can’t seem to do is the one thing we brought him in for–to hit three-pointers. JA was just barely over 30% for the season from deep going into tonight, and he’ll be sure to fall under that threshold with tonight’s 1-7 effort from range. James’ inability to hit consistently from behind the arc means probably isn’t good enough to be our two-guard of the future, but when he does move on from the Sixers, I think he’s shown enough that he deserves to be on some good team’s bench somewhere. Here’s hoping.
Good show from the boys tonight, better show from Durant and Ibaka. We host the Suns on Monday, before heading to Boston for a showdown of epic Tanking Implications. This season is a lot more fun than you expected it to be, admit it.
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