By Ryan McNeill
The Oklahoma City Thunder could already taste their first home win since opening night.
Shots were falling, young stars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook both eclipsed 30 points, and the foul line was as generous as could be; everything was working for the Thunder.
Everything except the Philadelphia 76ers, who just wouldn’t relent.
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But the Philly rally would fall short, as the Thunder stood firm enough to hold on to a 109-103 victory Wednesday night.
After trailing by double-digits for most of the second half, the once punch drunk 76ers capitalized on a litany of defensive lapses by Oklahoma City, narrowing the gap to a single possession late in fourth quarter.
Thunder head coach Scott Brooks needed to rally the troops, and in the final 2:33, he would do just that.
Oklahoma City had an inbounds from the baseline with only one second remaining on the shot clock after a media timeout. The Thunder needed a basket, a back breaker to deflate the young team from Philadelphia after what they thought was a much-needed defensive stop.
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Thabo Sefolosha would be the trigger man. After a few second of motion, he hit a streaking Westbrook for the tip-in alley-oop, giving the Thunder a 101-95 lead that would never fall below four points.
“That was a big call by coach Brooks. He called it… and Thabo made a great pass and I was able to tip it in,” Westbrook said.
Westbrook finished with his fifth double-double of the season, accounting for 31 points, 12 assists and five rebounds.
Oklahoma City was able to hold off the hard charging 76ers behind a masterful performance at the free throw line. The Thunder converted on 35-of-37 (94.6%) of their attempts from charity, six coming in the game’s final 44 seconds.
Durant matched Westbrook for game-high honors with 31 points, and shot a perfect 16 for 16 from the free throw line.
“We work so hard [in practice] and everyone has been focused on going to the line. We are starting to carry things over into the games,” Durant said.
After finishing second in the NBA in free throw accuracy last season, the Thunder entered the game at the top of the league, hitting 86% of their attempts from the line.
“That’s the good thing about our team,” Brooks said. “We practice free throw shooting constantly, and our guys are good free throw shooters.”
After struggling in their last two home games, a thrashing at the hands of two of the league’s top team in the Jazz and Celtics, the win Wednesday night lifted the Thunder back to 2-2 at Oklahoma City Arena.
“I like the fact that we won on our home court. We had a couple of tough ones with some very, very good teams in Utah and Boston, but we feel that we’re a good team. We like to protect our home court,” Brooks said.
The Thunder will go into the final two games of their current home stand, marquee matchups against Western Conference powers Portland and San Antonio, on the right track.
“That’s part of being professional,” Durant said of his team’s rebound victory. “We have to adjust things and we have to figure out what we need to do during the course of the game. I have faith that we will get everything done and we will be back to a solid team and start piling on some wins.”