Thunder 117, Sixers 115: Sixers Lose Heartbreaker on National TV


The Sixers put on a show on national television, but it was too little too late.

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Jimmy Butler struggled offensively and the Sixers couldn't keep up with the size and athleticism of the Thunder in a 117-115 loss Saturday at the Wells Fargo Center.

Paul George's four-point play with 5.1 seconds left sealed the win for Oklahoma City. Butler did hit a couple of big shots in the guts of the game but missed a three on the final possession.

The loss ends the Sixers' modest three-game winning streak and drops them to 19-5 at home and 30-17 overall.

Here are observations from the loss:

• The overall size and athleticism of the Thunder was a problem for the Sixers. Players like Jerami Grant and Nerlens Noel - remember them? - are really difficult to combat when you don't have the athletes to match.

It seemed like Butler was bothered by it. He was settling for jump shots on his way to a 1 for 8 first half. Even as he got more aggressive going to the rim in the second, the shots just weren't falling. He hit a huge three to get the Sixers within one with about a minute left and coverted an and-one to reduce the Thunder's lead to one with around 30 seconds left. He went 5 of 18 overall for 18 points.

• It was clear early on that Thunder head coach Billy Donovan wanted to match up Ben Simmons with Russell Westbrook and Joel Embiid with Steven Adams. 

It was also pretty clear that Oklahoma City was targeting Embiid and his balky back. Adams, who averaged 15.4 points coming in, had 12 in the first half. 

Embiid got off to a slow start and didn't look right in the first quarter. As the game went on and his back loosened up, he began to look more like himself. In the second half, he looked flat out dominant. He finished with 31 points, eight rebounds and six assists (see story).

It was intriguing to watch the Simmons vs. Westbrook matchup. Simmons did a tremendous job on him defensively, holding the perennial All-Star to 21 points on 8 of 21. The Sixers took advantage of the size mismatch, posting Simmons. Against a very good team, this might've been Simmons' best game of the season. He had 20 points, 15 rebounds and nine assists. The free throws continue to be an issue, as Simmons went 3 for 6 down the stretch and 4 of 8 overall.

• One of the guys that killed the Sixers was reserve guard Dennis Schroder. His elite quickness gave the Sixers' guard trio of JJ Redick, T.J. McConnell and Landry Shamet fits. All three sagged off Schroder to combat that quickness, but that allowed Schroder to get his mid-range game going. Schroder had shot just 35 percent from the field over his last nine, but always seems to perform well against the Sixers. He recorded 21 points.

• Shamet may have his shortcomings defensively, but he gave the Sixers a huge offensive boost in the first half, nailing three straight threes. Give the kid credit, it wasn't the easiest atmosphere to perform in, but he showed no hesitation in knocking those shots down. The first half score might have looked a lot different if not for those. 

With that said, this team feels like it's still - at least - one solid veteran bench player away from hanging with the NBA's elite.

• Markelle Fultz was back in the building and a team source confirmed to NBC Sports Philadelphia that he'll be continuing his medical treatment for thoracic outlet syndrome with the team's medical staff.

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