First off, it’s preseason. We all know this and much like the Summer League, it’s smart to keep things in perspective. But the Thunder played a competitive game tonight where score was kept so there are definitely things to take away from it. Of course, we didn’t get to watch but going off of Matt Pinto’s scintillating call and the box score, there are a few observations to be had. It’s always better to win than lose, but I think Scott Brooks was fine coming out on the bad end in order to get a little experience for his youngest guys.
I’m honestly just relieved we made it through this thing with everyone alive. After Dez Bryant being declared ineligible today, I wondered if this sports year was just cursed in Oklahoma. What was built up to maybe be the biggest year of sports ever in this state has now seen Sam Bradford get hurt, Jermaine Gresham get hurt, Ryan Broyles get hurt, OU lose two games, OSU unexpectedly lose to Houston and now Dez Bryant out for the season potentially. I honestly feared for Kevin Durant’s life tonight. One down. 88 more to go.
Guys that did good
He may not have scored a lot (five points on 0-4 shooting), by when you look at Russell Westbrook’s name in a box score and it says 10 assists and just two turnovers, you should celebrate like it’s 1999. If that’s a sign of things to come, then we’re going to be fine. And by fine, I mean pretty good. In Orlando, it looked like he had slowed down and begun to understand the game. And by all appearances tonight, that’s carrying over to this season.
Nenad Krstic was deadly with the jumper hitting 5 of 7 scoring 10 in just 14 minutes. Kyle Weaver was productive with six points and four assists in 15 minutes. Kevin Durant was good scoring 17 on 4-9 shooting. But D.J. White was probably the most impressive offensive player of the night scoring 16 in just 23 minutes. He shot the ball well and scored both inside and out. He honestly may become a pretty deadly offensive weapon off the bench.
Guys that really didn’t
Jeff Green just didn’t really shoot well (3-10) as well as James Harden (4-11, 1-6 from 3). It’s the first game so of course it’s forgiven, but a combined 7-21 isn’t all that awesome from two of your top offensive threats. One thing that bothered me about Green’s box score is that he didn’t attempt a single free throw. In a game where about 200 fouls were called, the fact he didn’t get a single freebie in 26 minutes of burn is kind of strange.
Byron Mullens surprisingly played more than Serge Ibaka (12 minutes to four), and of course, only grabbed just one rebound. I don’t know what the deal is there, but that’s something that has to improve. In fact, the team got outboarded 40-30, with White leading the way with just five rebounds. Not that great.
Also, the replacement referees. Obviously I didn’t see any of the calls, but the numbers are hard to ignore. If this is a sign of things to come, games are going to take forever. Literally. There were a total of 60 fouls called and Memphis shot a total of 47 free throws, including 29 in the first half. Matt Pinto put it plainly: “I see the frustration everyone is talking about in the preseason. There’s too many whistles.” (Speaking of Pinto, he needs to avoid one of his favorite words – “surging”. With Serge Ibaka on the roster, I got confused every time he said, “Kyle Weaver SURGING to the rim!”)
Nick Collison (ankle), Thabo Sefolosha (mild concussion), Kevin Ollie (hamstring). Michael Ruffin (coach’s decision), Mike Harris (coach’s decision), Tre Kelly (coach’s decision).
One encouraging thing
Through the first three quarters, OKC really took care of the ball, only turning it over 10 times. But with some more inexperienced players playing extended minutes in the fourth, the number finished at 17. Westbrook really just turned it over once (one of his turns was on an illegal screen). And normally sure-handed Shain Livingston led the team with four. The team finish with a 21-17 assist to turnover and like I said, it was much better before the sloppy fourth.
One discouraging thing
While the glass work was bad, I’d say 3-point shooting. Going 2-13 from deep isn’t good, even for a bad distance shooting team. Harden went 1-6 and Durant was the only other guy to hit one. I’m really not that discouraged by the play late in the fourth, as OKC fell apart losing an eight-point lead. Yes, the Thunder was outscored 29-17 in the fourth. Yes, they turned it over seven times. Yes, it wasn’t good. But the last 10 minutes, a lot of the young guys were playing and we didn’t see any Durant, Green or Westbrook in the fourth. It’s just preseason basketball and experience is more valuable than a win. That’s what we tell ourselves.
The Thunder’s next preseason game is Saturday afternoon at 2 p.m. in New Orleans.