Philadelphia 76ers: The dangers of celebrating too soon

(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images) /

In a back and forth battle for the ages, an eager Wells Fargo Center crowd erupted into celebration after a big Jimmy Butler bucket, only to watch the Philadelphia 76ers lose moments later.

Basketball is a fickle game.

The parameters are always the same; each quarter will always last 12 minutes, and regulation will always conclude after 48 minutes, but everything that goes down between the tipoff and the final buzzer is what makes the sport so entertaining.

The Philadelphia 76ers learned that lesson the hard way in their 117-115 Saturday matinée loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder.

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After trailing for much of the afternoon, Brett Brown‘s starting five fought back from as much as a 13-point deficit in the third quarter to tie things up at 113 with 14.9 seconds left to play following a trio of free throws made by the best center in the NBA Joel Embiid.

Though the Thunder would get one final possession to attempt to secure a W, the momentum was entirely in the 76ers court, especially after Russell Westbrook fouled out on the previous play.

And on the subsequent play, the Basketball Gods smiled down on the Sixers.

With backup point guard Dennis Schroder, Sam Hinkie‘s favorite player, running the show, Jimmy Butler flew past halfcourt and intercepted a pace meant for Steven Adams, and scored a quick layup to put his team up by two with 6.9 seconds left to play.

Needless to say, the Wells Fargo Center went nuts.

The crowd erupted, music blared, and the 76ers Phlight Squad ran down the sidelines with big, gaudy ‘Sixers’ flags typically reserved for the end of a game.

This was a bad sign.

You see, the 76ers had already caught a lucky break with the Butler steal, a clear sign of a momentum shift, so twhen they prematurely celebrated, during a Thunder timeout no less, it alleviated that tension. While Billy Donovan scripted a play to get Paul George open for an outside 3, Embiid, Butler and T.J. McConnell ran around the court, celebrating a game-winner that technically had yet to win the game.

The easiest way to get on the Basketball Gods’ bad sides? Celebrate early.

While Butler certainly made a good play, Donovan drew up a better one; a play that freed up the only good 3 point shooter on the worst 3 point shooting team in the league for a lightly contested shot from downtown, and like a pro, George got the and-one as well, securing his own game-winner on a four-point play.

With no timeouts left  and down by two, the 76ers attempted to get Butler the ball yet again, but he was double-teamed on the wings and couldn’t catch lightning in a bottle a second time, resulting in one of the more bitter losses on the Wells Fargo Center court so far in this calendar year.

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This was a game filled with inconsistencies; like shooting 34 percent from 3, 72 percent from free throw range, and surrendering 17 turnovers, but somehow the 76ers were still in it until the last minute of regulation. That’s a testimony to just how good this team is right now, as the Thunder are among the ten best teams in the NBA, but until the Philadelphia 76ers can close out the close one, on their home court no less, they still have plenty of work yet to be done.