The 76ers apparently can’t beat the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Paul George converted a four-point play with 5.1 seconds left to lift the Thunder to a 117-115 victory Saturday afternoon at the Wells Fargo Center.
The Sixers still had a chance to win the game. However, Jimmy Butler misfired on a desperation three-pointer before time expired.
“We had to shoot it, shoot a three,” Butler said of the final play. “If it would have went in, we would have won. It didn’t. We lost. But I don’t even think we’re in that position if I guard and don’t foul and PG makes the shot.”
With his team down one point, George had a step on Butler on the Thunder’s final possession. The OKC five-time All-Star swingman received that inbounds pass from Terrance Ferguson after racing from the paint to the top of the key. After setting his feet, George sank his fourth three-pointer as Butler inadvertently knocked him down, setting up the four-point play.
“I mean that’s PG,” Ferguson said of the play. “You don’t get too excited anymore about those. I mean they happen so many times. PG’s doing what PG does and we just got to see it and get a win.”
The setback marked the Sixers' 19th straight loss to OKC. Their last series win came on Nov. 15, 2008, in the Thunder’s first season in Oklahoma City.
The loss also snapped the Sixers' three-game winning streak and dropped them to 30-17. Meanwhile, the Thunder (27-18) stopped a two-game skid. It was just their second win in seven games.
George’s basket got Russell Westbrook off the hook.
He fouled out while trying to defend Joel Embiid on a three-point attempt with 14.9 seconds left. The Sixers All-Star center, who played with back tightness, made all three of his attempts to knot the score at 115. Afterward, Butler stole a pass by Westbrook’s replacement - Dennis Schroder- near midcourt and scored to put the Sixers up two points with 6.9 seconds remaining.
After George’s four-point play, Ben Simmons raced up the court and did a dribble hand-off to Butler with around 2.9 seconds left instead of attacking the rim. Butler fired up an off-balanced shot with George and Ferguson double-teaming him.
“I saw [Steven] Adams to my left,” Simmons said. “I was assuming he was going to help and create a road block. I saw that [and] wanted to come to Jimmy to see if he could get an and-one or a shot off.”
The point guard said was going to attempt a shot until he saw the defender sag off Butler. So he opted to hand off the ball.
George finished with 14 of his team-high 31 points in the fourth quarter. Westbrook had 21 points, 10 rebounds, six assists and four turnovers.
Embiid paced the Sixers with 31 points to go with eight rebounds, one block and three turnovers. He was determined to play in this game despite his back tightness.
“We haven’t won against them in like 10, 11 years,” he said. “That’s just ridiculous and I wanted to get the win. That’s one more reason that pisses me off that we gave that away, and we had it.”
Ben Simmons had 20 points, 15 rebounds, nine assists, one block and six turnovers. JJ Redick added 22, while Butler had 18 on 5-of-18 shooting to go with two steals and two blocks.
Things got testy between Embiid and Westbrook with 1 minute, 46 seconds remaining.
Embiid fouled the seven-time All-Star while contesting a layup and fell on the point guard as they both went to the ground. Westbrook, after getting up, took exception and went after the big man. After being held back, Westbrook made a pair of foul shots to give OKC an 108-104 lead.
“I don’t think he just landed on me,” Westbrook said. “He had a little extra to it. It’s okay.”
The 2017 league MVP was then asked if he and Embiid were cool.
“[Freak] no,” Westbrook responded.
Embiid said he was going for the block and they collided in the air.
“I don’t know why he was mad. I have no idea,” Embiid said. “But he’s always in his feelings. So I have no idea.”
The Sixers committed 19 turnovers, made just 11 of 32 three-pointers and shot 71.8 percent (28 of 39) from the foul line in the loss.
Markelle Fultz is back with the Sixers
The first-overall pick of the 2017 draft attended Saturday afternoon’s game against the Oklahoma City Thunder at the Wells Fargo Center. Fultz took a red-eye flight from Los Angeles Friday night to be with the Sixers and continue his rehabilitation at the team’s practice facility in Camden.
There is no timetable for his return.
Fultz had been working out with former Los Angeles Lakers physical therapist Judy Seto in Los Angeles since his agent, Raymond Brothers, announced on Dec. 4 that he was diagnosed with Thoracic Outlet Syndrome.
The Sixers will see what type of shape he’s in.
“I think once we can assess that judgement to try to get him back on track where he can come on an NBA court and play again,” Brown said. “But I don’t know how far away that is.”