PHILADELPHIA — The Oklahoma City Thunder’s stars have recovered from their injuries. Now the team as a whole is trying to recover from a miserable start to the season.
Point guard Russell Westbrook, playing his third game after missing the previous 14 with a broken right hand, had 27 points, seven assists and five rebounds Friday night, as the Thunder beat the Philadelphia 76ers 103-91.
Center/forward Serge Ibaka had 19 points and reserve guard Jeremy Lamb contributed 15 for Oklahoma City (6-13), which won for the third time in four games.
“We’ve just got to take it a day at a time and keep getting better,” said forward Kevin Durant, who scored 10 points on 3-of-11 shooting in his second game back from a broken right foot. “We’ve just got to keep putting it together, keep grinding away.”
A late 8-0 run — one consisting of Durant’s fast-break layup and consecutive 3-pointers by Lamb –gave the Thunder a 101-86 lead with 1:37 left, after the 76ers cut a 20-point second-half deficit to seven at 93-86.
Reserve forward Robert Covington scored a career-high 21 points to lead the 76ers (1-18), who beat Minnesota for their first victory of the season on Wednesday night. Guard Michael Carter-Williams had 16 points, 14 assists and seven rebounds, and engaged in a game-long give-and-take with Westbrook.
“It’s basketball,” Carter-Williams said. “It is what it is. He goes out and plays hard for his team and I play hard for mine. It gets competitive with chit-chat back and forth. … I have nothing against him. It just gets intense. There’s pride involved. After the game, it’s all good. During the game, it is what it is.”
Durant said the byplay “added a little bit more fuel to the fire” for his teammate, and Westbrook did not disagree.
“That’s kind of how I play,” he said. “That’s what I do. If that’s what he wanted to do, that’s good, but fortunately they lost. Obviously the one-on-one battles don’t mean much. All that matters is whose team wins.”
Durant declared Westbrook the winner of the individual battle as well, after seeing his teammate shoot 8-of-14 from the floor and 10-of-14 from the foul line, albeit while committing six turnovers.
“Young dudes in this league tend to bark a lot,” Durant said. “I think he put him in his place and let him know who the best point guard in the league is.”
Carter-Williams has recorded at least 16 points, seven rebounds and seven assists in each of the last four games, becoming the first player to do that since Westbrook, from March 30 to April 7, 2013.
The Thunder breezed to a 42-26 lead early in the second quarter behind eight points from Westbrook and six from center Steven Adams and a smothering defense that forced nine straight Philadelphia misses during one stretch.
The 76ers later reeled off nine straight points, three each by Carter-Williams and guard/forward Hollis Thompson, to creep within seven, 44-37, and by halftime Oklahoma City’s lead was 57-47.
Westbrook had 14 points by then. Covington scored 10 to pace the 76ers, who shot just 35.7 percent from the field in the half compared with 52.4 percent for the Thunder.
NOTES: The layup by F Kevin Durant with 2:40 left extended his streak of consecutive games with 10 points or more to 407, dating back to March 14, 2009. … In 2008-09, Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks faced a situation similar to the one Philadelphia coach Brett Brown faces this season when he inherited a 1-12 Thunder team from P.J. Carlesimo. The Thunder proceeded to lose 17 of their first 19 games under Brooks en route to a 23-59 finish. “The players always get you through the tough times,” Brooks said. “I knew our guys were working hard each day. … That gives you hope.” … When the Sixers were forced to restart Wednesday’s victory at Minnesota because the teams were headed in the wrong direction, they lost two free throws by C Henry Sims, something Brown protested to the officials. “At this stage for us, you’re going to fight for everything,” he said, “and that was one of those examples. Fortunately, it never came back to hurt us.” … The Thunder activated F Perry Jones. He had missed the previous 13 games with a right knee contusion. … The Sixers signed G Malcolm Lee from Delaware, their affiliate in the NBA Development League, and waived F Drew Gordon. … Philadelphia G Alexey Shved missed his second straight game with a hip injury.
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