Thunder, Christon face 76ers after standing up to Curry

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Up until Monday night, most fans had no idea who Semaj Christon was or that he was even in the NBA.

The Oklahoma City Thunder guard went through most of his rookie season without any fanfare outside of his hometown of Cincinnati.

But that changed Monday night when the former D-Leaguer wouldn't back down from two-time MVP Stephen Curry and it led to a shoving match between Curry, Christon and Thunder guard Russell Westbrook.

"It was just a little pushing and shoving," Christon said. "Just part of the game. Just protecting myself. I was just trying to get into position. I wouldn't move, so that's all that happened. It's basketball.

"You're going to have your feisty moments out there. I just stood my ground. I'm a player just like he is."

Christon has become an integral part of the Thunder bench heading into Wednesday night's game against the Philadelphia 76ers.

After beating out Ronnie Price and watching Cameron Payne get traded to Chicago, Christon took over full ownership of the backup point guard role behind Westbrook.

Sometimes, like against the Warriors, Christon will be teamed in the backcourt with Westbrook. But Christon says it doesn't matter who he is facing or on the court with, he has to have the same attitude at all times. It's the same one the Thunder bench is trying to adopt as a whole.

"Just play hard," Christon said. "I feel like we've been getting everything together. Just being feisty and ready to compete. That will make it easy for the second unit and the first unit when they get back in."

While the feisty bench didn't help in the loss to Golden State, it has been big for Oklahoma City during their previous five-game win streak.

Entering the matchup with the 76ers, the Thunder are 2 1/2 games behind the Utah Jazz for fourth place in the Western Conference standings and the Northwest Division title. Down the stretch, the bench will be needed if the Thunder are going to move up in the standings.

"We have to come in and provide energy," Thunder forward Jerami Grant said. "We have to keep up the pace that our first group is going out and competing with. As long as we keep the energy up and stay consistent on both ends of the floor, we'll be fine."

Grant will see some familiar faces with the 76ers coming to town. He played in Philadelphia for two seasons before being traded to Oklahoma City earlier this season.

While the Thunder (40-30) are fighting for playoff positioning, the 76ers (26-44) are still battling injuries. That group includes high draft picks Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid and Jahlil Okafor.

Despite that, coach Brett Brown says his squad has not given up.

"I think that they play hard for each other," Brown told "I think that there is an accountability and a responsibility that they feel to one another.

"I think the game plan and what we believe in -- say pick-and-roll defense or post defense -- is something that's very vanilla, it's simple, and we've walked something down throughout the course of the season.

"We hold those guys to a high level of accountability, and the mistakes are felt immediately by the team."
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