Who needs Kevin Durant as Thunder roll the 76ers

Russell Westbrook scored 32 points in their season opener on Wednesday night.

Westbrook had himself a night minus Kevin Durant.
Westbrook had himself a night minus Kevin Durant.
Image: Chris Szagola/AP/Press Association Images

RUSSELL WESTBROOK SCORED nine of his 32 points in the waning minutes as the Oklahoma City Thunder rallied to beat the 76ers 103-97 in Philadelphia on Wednesday in their NBA season-opener.

Westbrook, who also had 12 rebounds and nine assists, snapped a 97-97 tie with 35 seconds remaining by connecting twice from the free-throw line after a foul off the ball by Philadelphia’s Gerald Henderson.

The Thunder, who trailed by six with 6:17 to play and by four with 4:16 left, spoiled the injury-delayed NBA debut of Sixers center Joel Embiid, who finished with 20 points and seven rebounds.

Embiid, the Cameroonian center taken third overall in the 2014 draft, missed the past two seasons as a result of two foot surgeries.

“I try to make it a regular day,” Embiid said before the contest.

“It’s hard, added the 22-year-old, who coped not only with ongoing injury since being drafted but also with the death of his younger brother, Arthur, in a road accident.

“You think what you’ve gone through the past two years, the loss of my brother and having to get another surgery and all of the ups and downs.”

He said, however, that he never seriously considered quitting the NBA.

“I love basketball too much to make that decision,” he said.

Enes Kanter had 17 points and 12 rebounds and Steven Adams contributed 16 points for the Thunder, who were playing their first game since 2014 NBA Most Valuable Player Kevin Durant signed with Golden State as a free agent in the offseason.

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While it was Westbrook who lifted the Thunder at the end, Oklahoma city coach Billy Donovan said it was crucial the entire team step up to fill the void left by Durant.

“He can’t facilitate every single shot, every single basket, every single assist,” Donovan said, “because it’s going to wear him out.”

(C) AFP 2016

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