The Oklahoma City Thunder appear to be rounding into form.
The Philadelphia 76ers, meanwhile, can only hope they are beginning to regain theirs, as they host the Thunder on Friday night.
Oklahoma City (13-14) underwent a facelift in the offseason, acquiring 12-time All-Star Carmelo Anthony and four-time All-Star Paul George in trades with the New York Knicks and Indiana Pacers, respectively.
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Despite teaming them with reigning NBA MVP Russell Westbrook, the Thunder started the season slowly. They have, however, won five of seven games in December.
That includes a 100-95 victory over the Pacers on Wednesday night, in George’s return to Indianapolis.
George struggled, shooting 3-of-14 from the floor and scoring 12 points, while turning the ball over four times. He did, however, make a key steal in the closing seconds, and then dropped in the clinching free throws.
“I’m happy the circus is over with,” he told the Oklahoman afterward. “Everybody can move on.”
Westbrook had a triple-double in the game — 10 points, 17 rebounds and 12 assists — but went 3-of-17 from the floor. Anthony went 4-of-14 while scoring 12 points.
Steven Adams rescued Oklahoma City by collecting 23 points and 13 rebounds, and Alex Abrines had 14 points, including four 3-pointers.
For the season, Westbrook, who last year became the first player since Oscar Robertson in 1961-62 to average a triple-double, owns norms of 22.6 points, 9.9 assists and 9.4 rebounds per game. He is, however, shooting a career-low 38.9 percent from the floor.
George is averaging 20.3 points but shooting just 41.2 percent, and Anthony is averaging 17.7 points on 40-percent shooting.
The Sixers (14-13) ended a four-game losing streak with a 118-112 overtime victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Tuesday night. Joel Embiid, who returned after missing Sunday’s loss to the New Orleans Pelicans with back tightness, generated 28 points, 12 rebounds and a career-high eight assists to lead Philadelphia.
“Coming into this game, I didn’t feel 100 percent, but I pushed through it,” Embiid told Philly.com. “I came out of the game pretty good. So I’ve just got to keep getting treatment on making sure it’s not tight.”
J.J. Redick added 26 points for the Sixers, but rookie sensation Ben Simmons managed seven points, eight assists and three rebounds while turning the ball over seven times.
The Sixers, who are averaging of a league-worst 17.2 turnovers, coughed the ball up a season-high 26 times against Minnesota.
“We were lucky to get out with a win when you have that many turnovers,” coach Brett Brown told Philly.com.
Philadelphia forward Robert Covington is expected to return Friday after missing two games with a bruised lower back, but the Sixers continue to be without guard Markelle Fultz, the top pick in this year’s draft, because of a shoulder injury. Guard/forward Justin Anderson (shin splints) is also out.
Thunder guard/forward Andre Roberson has missed the last two games with a sprained left ankle. His status for Friday’s game is unknown.