Thun­der spoil Em­biid’s de­but

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - SPORTS - By Dan Gel­ston

PHILADEL­PHIA >> Rus­sell West­brook had 32 points, 12 re­bounds and took over late to lead the Ok­la­homa City Thun­der to a 103-97 vic­tory over the Philadel­phia 76ers on Wed­nes­day night.

West­brook scored the de­ci­sive points on open­ing night for the Thun­der in their first game since fran­chise star Kevin Du­rant left in free agency and signed with the Golden State War­riors.

Joel Em­biid scored 20 points in 22 min­utes in his first game for the Six­ers since they made him the No. 3 over­all pick in the 2014 draft. Em­biid had sat out the last two sea­sons with foot in­juries. He re­ceived a roar­ing ova­tion when he was in­tro­duced and fans went wild on ev­ery shot.

The 76ers had a triple­header of im­age faux pas on open­ing night: The sched­uled an­them singer says she was booted be­cause she wanted to wear a “We Mat­ter” jer­sey; a fan was kicked out for ex­tend­ing two mid­dle fin­gers at West­brook; and half­time singer De­si­igner was booed off the court for a shirt­less per­for­mance where he dropped his pants to his an­kles.

West­brook and Em­biid swapped jumpers that tied the game 97-all. West­brook sank two free throws with 35 sec­onds left for a 9997 lead in front of a rau­cous crowd. Enes Kan­ter si­lenced them for good and sent them to­ward the ex­its with a put­back layup af­ter the Six­ers missed a shot on the other end.

Yes, it was another loss for the Six­ers, but one that came with a 7-foot-2 as­ter­isk.

Em­biid’s per­for­mance largely stole the show from the open­ing-night shenani­gans that oth­er­wise tar­nished the night.

Six­ers fans who had been wait­ing to cheer for Em­biid for more than two years went wild ev­ery time he touched the ball. A group of fans held a sign that read, “In Em­biid We Trust.”

The Six­ers just might prove they made the right de­ci­sion to trust in Em­biid.

The crowd of nearly 20,000 fans erupted when the “7-foot-2 cen­ter from Kansas, Joooooel, Em­bi­i­i­iid” was in­tro­duced dur­ing game in­tro­duc­tions. They stood and gasped when Em­biid at­tempted his first shot of the game — a missed 3-pointer.

He grabbed a de­fen­sive re­bound, pushed the ball up the floor and it helped lead to an al­ley-oop to fel­low new­comer Ger­ald Hen­der­son. He had a nifty spin in the post and a bucket for a quick 10-2 lead.

The Six­ers, yes, the 10-72 Six­ers, at last had a dose of good news.

Coach Brett Brown said he would limit Em­biid to four, 5-minute spurts and the cen­ter spent at least one game break in the locker room on an ex­er­cise bike to stay loose.

Em­biid starred on a nationally tele­vised per­for­mance and gave a teas­ing glimpse that he just may be the fran­chise cor­ner­stone player that can help shift the fran­chise to­ward re­spectabil­ity.

West­brook, now The Man in OKC, re­fused to cede the spot­light en­tirely to Em­biid. He scored 12 points in the first quar­ter and 22 through three to keep the Thun­der within strik­ing dis­tance en­ter­ing the fourth.

He closed the game with the jumper and free throws and showed life with­out Du­rant might not be so bad for the Thun­der.

Tip-ins

Thun­der: Coach Billy Dono­van said the Thun­der will win with­out Du­rant, just “do it in a dif­fer­ent way.” “It will be a con­stant process through­out the sea­son to get ev­ery­one to un­der­stand.” ... Dono­van said West­brook can’t try and play as a one-man show or else “it’s just go­ing to wear him out.”

76ers: Phillies first base­man Ryan Howard rang the cer­e­mo­nial open­ing bell . ... UFC light­weight cham­pion Ed­die Al­varez was at the game . ... Fans chanted “Trust The Process” when Em­biid was at the free-throw line. The catch­phrase be­came a rallying cry un­der for­mer team pres­i­dent Sam Hinkie.

Fan tossed

The Six­ers ejected a portly fan in an Allen Iver­son jer­sey who directed both mid­dle fin­gers to­ward West­brook from his court­side seat. The fan raised his arms in tri­umph and high­fived fans as he was es­corted out of the arena.

Des­linger flaw

Rap­per De­si­igner was booed off the court for a half­time per­for­mance where he ripped off his shirt and left with his jeans down to his an­kles and his box­ers ex­posed.

Sim­mons up­date

No. 1 over­all draft pick Ben Sim­mons says there is no timetable for his re­turn to the Six­ers from a bro­ken bone in his right foot. He said he has not dis­cussed the pos­si­bil­ity of sit­ting out the sea­son.

“I’ll come back when I’m ready,” Sim­mons said.

Up next

Thun­der: Host Phoenix on Fri­day in their home opener.

76ers: Host At­lanta on Satur­day. They open with three straight and five of their first six at home.

CHRIS SZAGOLA — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Ok­la­homa City Thun­der’s Rus­sell West­brook, cen­ter, drives to the bas­ket be­tween Philadel­phia 76ers’ Nik Stauskas, right, and Jerami Grant, left, dur­ing the first half Wed­nes­day.

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