Well, if the Sixers' goal was to pull off as many improbable wins as possible on this road trip, tonight is a perfect opportunity to make it three. The Thunder have actually stumbled a bit recently, dropping three of their last six, including a 17-point home loss to the Nets on Wednesday night.
I have no idea how the Sixers took the Thunder to overtime back in November. Thad and Turner both had big games (29 points, 15 boards for Thad, 26 points on 17 shots for Turner), Jrue shot the ball terribly (3/11), but handed out 13 assists. Overall, they're defense was just terrible (120.9 DFR). They just managed to match OKC's offensive firepower through four quarters before the Thunder caught fire from deep in overtime.
I'd love to be able to tell you "if the Sixers do this, they can win," but there are just too many ways OKC can beat you. Philly has absolutely no answer for Durant. Not even close. He's going to be able to get whatever shot he wants, it'll just be a question of whether he's hitting them. Of course, if he isn't hitting them, the refs will just send him to the line (he was 15/17 from the stripe in their first meeting). I think you just have to pencil in Durant for 35 points and hope you can somehow hold the rest of the roster to less than 65, or so.
In what has been a stretch of tough matchups for Jrue, Westbrook is probably the toughest. Last time, he outscored Jrue 30 to 6, that can't happen tonight. Jrue has to match Westbrook's scoring output, at least, do so efficiently, take care of the ball and set up his teammates. Winning that matchup will go a long way to at least keeping the game close. So if we can pencil in Durant for 35, and Jrue can manage to match or beat Westbrook, then we're left with what really killed them in November, the bigs.
Serge Ibaka and Nick Collison shot a combined 13/18 from the floor, 6/7 from the line for 32 points. That just can't happen. Neither one of those guys is offensively talented, they were just the recipients of multiple gifts from the Sixers. When you're trying to stop or slow down Durant without a wing defender, that's going to happen. The Sixers need to be smarter about how they help out on Durant, though. Instead of leaving Ibaka, help off of Perkins. Perkins has scored double figures in three games all season. He hasn't attempted 10 shots all year. See if you can dare him to take a dozen shots tonight. Just completely ignore him, if he's got a dunk, hammer him. Send him to the line. OKC plays 4 on 5 on the offensive end (really 3.5 on 5, but you can't leave Thabo open from three), so make them pay for that. Put Thad on Perkins, and send Thad to double hard whenever Durant catches the ball. Use Thad to double every pick-and-roll insanely hard. Keep your rotations to the three-point line crisp (OKC doesn't shoot a ton of threes, but as a team they're shooting 40%, best in the league).
If you sit back against the Thunder and let them play their game, they're going to kill you. Make them adjust. Give them what you want them to take. If you can accomplish that, you might just have a chance if you have an insanely hot shooting night.
Ultimately, I expect the Sixers to play well tonight. I expect this game to be a close loss with Philly playing over their heads, but still falling short.
The tip is at 8pm. This is your game thread. I'll be here throughout (assuming I make the 6:21 train). Join me if you feel like going nuts to start your weekend, even if in the back of your mind you feel like there's no shot.