Philadelphia 76ers coach Doug Collins said Oklahoma City has done “a great job” adjusting to life without Sixth Man of the Year James Harden, but the true test has yet to come.
“I think where you're going to see the value of James Harden is come playoff time,” Collins said before Friday night's 109-85 loss to OKC at Chesapeake Energy Arena. “James Harden in so many instances was their point guard. ... In the playoffs, you need as many playmakers as possible. Kevin Martin (acquired in the Harden trade with Houston) can really score that ball, but he plays off other guys. I think people don't realize that James Harden last year made more free throws in the fourth quarter than anybody in the NBA. So you put him at the free-throw line, you put (Kevin) Durant at the free-throw line and you put (Russell) Westbrook there, those are easy points.
“So I think (the playoffs) is when you'll get a true gauge, but they've done a great job.”
IBAKA NO BLOCKA
Thunder forward Serge Ibaka leads the NBA in blocked shots and has at least one block in every game except two this season – and both games were against Philadelphia.
Ibaka finished with 15 points and 10 rebounds (six offensive) Friday against the Sixers. He had 18 points and nine rebounds (eight offensive) in the season's previous victory at Philadelphia on Nov. 24.
“He's always been a pretty good defensive rebounder,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said of Ibaka. “Now, I think this year we've challenged him. Give him credit, he's locking in on the offensive side of the rebounds. He has quickness, he has strength, and he has jumping ability to get offensive rebounds. He just has to go every time, and I think now he's going every time. If you go 10 times, you might get one. If you go zero times, you're going to get zero. He's going every time, and they're adding up.”
Collins and several Sixers players spoke admirably of the atmosphere at The Peake.
“What you live for as a player is atmosphere,” Collins said. “When you're playing a long season, that energy in that building is important, especially as a player. You get in front of that home crowd and you've been on a road, you come back and you're a little tired, the energy of that crowd is great.
“This place is terrific. I remember doing the Lakers-OKC playoffs (as a television analyst). It was spectacular, just coming in here. These people love this team. … This is their team. You've got college football (here) and the Thunder.”
The Thunder is now 6-1 (.857) after a loss this season and 41-10 (.804) after a loss the last three seasons. Only Chicago (40-8) has a better bounce-back record in that same span. … In attendance were country singer and OKC native Vince Gill and R&B artist Keri Hilson, who is Ibaka's girlfriend. … In this season's previous meeting, the Thunder took 37 free throws to Philadelphia's 17. On Friday. OKC attempted 27 free throws to eight for the Sixers. … Sunday's game at Toronto has a noon tip and Monday's game at Washington starts at 6 p.m. … Friday was the Sixers' seventh stop in their eight-game road trip that ends Saturday at San Antonio. The last time Philadelphia played a home game was Dec 21.
Collins on the Thunder trading away Harden due to financial considerations: “The one sad thing about the NBA in some situations is when you have a great team and you can't keep it together because of money. That's sad. You've got to make financial decisions. To think of this (OKC) team being together with Harden for four or five or six years … But that's the economics of the NBA.”