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OKC Thunder: Five takeaways from 76ers scrimmage

A sleepy Sunday performance filled with sloppy passes and clanked shots took a sharp turn in the second half as the Thunder overcame a 24-point deficit to beat the 76ers 102-97. 

Yes it was just a scrimmage, but the ending was undeniably entertaining. 

Here are five takeaways: 

Roberson wins it

Returning to the court after a 909-day absence is a tough story to top. That’s what Roberson did Friday against the Celtics. On Sunday, Roberson’s comeback story grew more unbelievable when he buried back-to-back 3-pointers to win the game. 

Roberson hit a go-ahead three to put the Thunder ahead 98-97 with 50 seconds left. He iced the game on the next possession by draining another 3-pointer. 

“Just win,” Roberson said of his mindset. “Just go out there and show that I got it.” 

The career 25.7% 3-point shooter is 3-of-4 from deep through two scrimmages in Orlando. 

Roberson scored six points with six rebounds Sunday. More importantly, he played 15 minutes, up from the 12 minutes he played in the Thunder’s first scrimmage. 

“I felt really comfortable today. I kind of got it out of my system the first day,” Roberson said of his nerves. “Today I felt a little more relaxed, a little more settled in and just back to the old days I guess you could say.” 

Both benches were emptied well before the game entered crunch time, but the Thunder outscored the 76ers by 29 points with Roberson on the floor. 

“Dre was plus-29 tonight?” Chris Paul asked after the game. “That’s tough. That’s real tough. We’ve been saying all along, this is an opportunity for Dre to show what he can do.” 

First-half woes

The 76ers torched the Thunder in the first half. 

Philadelphia shot 10-of-23 from behind the arc while the Thunder was just 3-of-15 from deep heading into the locker room. 

Even without star center Joel Embiid, who sat Sunday with right calf tightness, the 76ers are one of the longest, most imposing defensive teams in the NBA. Philadelphia pressured the Thunder into mistakes, but OKC couldn’t even convert its clean looks. 

Paul, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Danilo Gallinari and Dennis Schroder — typically the Thunder’s best shooters — combined to shoot 2-of-18 from 3-point range. 

The Thunder shot just 66% from the free throw line. 

Noel returns

Backup center Nerlens Noel played 17 minutes Sunday after sitting out Friday with an ankle injury. 

Noel’s performance was encouraging. He threw a lob to Darius Bazley, finished a contested dunk and blocked a shot that led to a fastbreak bucket. 

That was all in the first quarter. 

“We need to throw him out there and let him play extended minutes for his conditioning and for his timing, but he did some good things,” Thunder coach Billy Donovan said. “Nerlens is gonna be Nerlens. He’s gonna block some shots, he’s gonna be active, he’s gonna be a really good roller … It was good for him to get his feet wet.” 

Increased workload

The Thunder’s veteran starters were eased into the first scrimmage, but Paul, Gallinari and Steven Adams all played more than 20 minutes Sunday. 

Donovan, unlike he did Friday, stretched his starters into the third quarter to continue the slow ramp-up before the regular season resumes Saturday. 

Rookie watch

Luguentz Dort and Bazley scored 13 points a piece. 

Bazley played a team-high 27 minutes. He shot 50% from the floor and 2-of-6 from behind the arc. Proving he can stretch the floor and defend multiple positions will be Bazley’s path to playing time once the real games begin. 

“I think the biggest thing with Darius is he was aggressive,” Donovan said. “I think he made decisive decisions, whether they were good or bad. 

“Those young guys … there’s gonna be ups and downs as part of their growth and maturing as players. You want to see a resiliency and a fight to be able to bounce back.” 

Related Photos
Oklahoma City's Chris Paul (3) shoots over Philadelphia's Al Horford (42) during an NBA basketball game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Philadelphia 76ers at Chesapeake Arena in Oklahoma City, Friday, Nov. 15, 2019. Oklahoma City won 127-119. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma City's Chris Paul (3) shoots over Philadelphia's Al Horford (42) during an NBA basketball game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Philadelphia 76ers at Chesapeake Arena in Oklahoma City, Friday, Nov. 15, 2019. Oklahoma City won 127-119. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman]

<figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-342c17d67dcf0d928369c874c7f17f02.jpg" alt="Photo - Oklahoma City's Chris Paul (3) shoots over Philadelphia's Al Horford (42) during an NBA basketball game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Philadelphia 76ers at Chesapeake Arena in Oklahoma City, Friday, Nov. 15, 2019. Oklahoma City won 127-119. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman] " title="Oklahoma City's Chris Paul (3) shoots over Philadelphia's Al Horford (42) during an NBA basketball game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Philadelphia 76ers at Chesapeake Arena in Oklahoma City, Friday, Nov. 15, 2019. Oklahoma City won 127-119. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman] "><figcaption>Oklahoma City's Chris Paul (3) shoots over Philadelphia's Al Horford (42) during an NBA basketball game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Philadelphia 76ers at Chesapeake Arena in Oklahoma City, Friday, Nov. 15, 2019. Oklahoma City won 127-119. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman] </figcaption></figure>
Joe Mussatto

Joe Mussatto joined The Oklahoman in August 2018 to cover OU football, men’s basketball and softball. He previously covered University of Kentucky football and basketball for SEC Country. Mussatto is from Oklahoma City and lives in Norman. Read more ›

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