Thunder strike to beat 76ers
Kevin Durant lit up the arena as the Oklahoma City Thunder edged out the Philadelphia 76ers 103-99 in an NBA pre-season game in Manchester.
In front of a crowd of 13,472 at the Phones 4U Arena, the United States forward - an Olympic gold winner in London last year - collected 21 points, 12 assists and eight rebounds while Reggie Jackson led all scorers with 29 and Serge Ibaka added 18.
A host of Manchester's footballing stars were out to take in the show, with Rio Ferdinand, David de Gea, Adnan Januzaj, Jack Rodwell and Patrick Vieira among those sitting courtside.
Although the game lacked the intensity of a regular-season contest - with both teams showing the effects of a hectic travel schedule to play across Europe in the NBA's annual summer tour - those on hand were treated to enough highlight reel plays to keep them entertained.
Durant was slow to get going, but he joined in the party with a big dunk late in the second quarter. Up until then, his team had been relying on the outstanding athleticism of Spain star Ibaka to keep ahead against the hot three-point shooting of the 76ers.
The Thunder's lead was never more than six in the first half, and Philadelphia edged in front on a long ball from Tony Wroten before half-time.
A big throw down from Jackson had the crowd on their feet again at the start of the third quarter as the Thunder began to edge clear, leading 76-65 when Jeremy Lamb scored with a two-handed dunk with three minutes to go in the period.
It was in the third period that Durant started rolling. Having scored only seven points in the opening half, he had 14 in the third quarter alone, and it began to wear down this young Philadelphia squad.
Although a Wroten three tied it at 85-85 midway through the fourth quarter, the Thunder once again moved through the gears to put them away with eight unanswered points.
Philadelphia kept scrapping to keep it close to the finish, but the Thunder kept finding an answer to hold them at arm's length.
Oklahoma City's eventual victory was little surprise, with this Thunder team built around to Durant with the aim of contending for honours while the 76ers, under new coach Brett Brown, are entering what promises to be a lengthy rebuilding process.
Wroten finished with 20 points for Philadelphia, with Evan Turner adding 19.
While this game may have just been a pre-season warm-up, the NBA will return to the UK in January for a regular-season game, continuing a commitment the league made to help the sport grow in this country ahead of the 2012 Olympics.
That contest will be between the Atlanta Hawks and Brooklyn Nets, who include Great Britain coach Joe Prunty among their staff.