Sixers-Thunder: Russell Westbrook battles Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, and other quick thoughts from a 119-117 triple-overtime loss

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Sixers' Ben Simmons takes the ball from Thunder's Carmelo Anthony during overtime at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Friday, Dec. 15, 2017. The Thunder beat the Sixers in triple overtime, 119-117.

Russell Westbrook battles Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid for the win

The three overtime periods were all about three people: Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid, and Russell Westbrook. In the overtime periods Embiid had 12 points, two monster blocks and two rebounds. Simmons had two steals, three assists, two rebounds, and two points. Westbrook had 14 points in the extra frames and eight rebounds. He also assisted the winning bucket by Andre Roberson. Simmons finished with 12 points, 11 assists, and nine rebounds, just shy of another triple-double, and Embiid finished with a game-high 34 points, but it was Westbrook who won the overtime battle.

Melo gears up for the Garden

Carmelo Anthony will enter Madison Square Garden Saturday for the first time since leaving the Knicks to join the Thunder in the offseason. Anthony no doubt wants to have a good game against his former team and put on a show at the Garden. Whether it’s boos or cheers, or a mix of both, it looked like he was using the Sixers to get primed and ready to take on his former team. Averaging 17.7 points per game this season, Anthony scored 24 against the Sixers on the first night of a back-to-back for Oklahoma City.

Jerryd Bayless and JJ Redick heat up

In the three games preceding Friday, Bayless scored a combined 11 points. Then against the Thunder he caught fire and scored 14 on 4-of-7 (all three-pointers) for his 10th double-digit outing of the season. JJ Redick was 4-of-7 from three in the first half and finished with 19 points but was unable to hit a three in the second half or the three that could have won the game in triple-overtime. The shooting of both Bayless and Redick was necessary because Robert Covington couldn’t seem to get the ball to fall. Covington hit just one three in the first half and finished the night 4-of-21 from the field and 3-of-15 from three for 11 points.

Keeping an eye on Joel Embiid’s back

Back tightness and soreness had kept Embiid out of two games this season and he was questionable because of the pain heading into the matchup against OKC. With 2:49 left in the third quarter Jerami Grant fouled Embiid and the big man started to fall backward and before he went down he clutched his lower back. The way he grabbed his back looked like reflex, the way you immediately touch something that stings or hurts. The fact that he hit two free throws and stayed in the game is encouraging, but the way he gingerly ran back down the court was not. After a triple-overtime game where he played more than 48 minutes, the back tightness is hampering him; hopefully the two days off between games will help him get back to normal. If not, let’s hope the big guy doesn’t try to play through something while the season is still early.

Offensive rebounds that hurt

This has happened a few times this season, and it happened at least three times against the Thunder. The Sixers would go through a great defensive possession, the Thunder would take a shot late in the shot clock, and then three or more Sixers would just stand around and the Thunder would get an offensive board —and sometimes more than one —that they would turn into another bucket. With the length and height that the Sixers have, this should not happen.