One thing that’s nice about preseason is that your team can play an absolutely horrid game, yet you can sit back and say how it didn’t matter and then point out some positives. And that’s exactly what I plan on doing. The Thunder got walloped in Austin, 119-102, but it was a competitive first 21 minutes though OKC got completely run the last 27. It was 53-50 with 2:55 remaining in the first half. Then San Antonio went on to outscore the Thunder 66 to 52, and had stretched the lead out to 28 at one point.
But hey, it doesn’t matter! It’s just preseason and it doesn’t count! Which is good because I’d really like to forget that I watched that second half. And while the Thunder played some seriously sloppy defense throughout the game, it’s tough to defend against a team that hits 14-19 on 3-pointers (11-14 in the first half) and hits 58 percent from the floor. Some of that were the pathetic closeouts and bad rotations on the defensive end by OKC, but some of it was just deadeye shooting by the Spurs.
Kevin Durant was absolutely lights out early, going for 19 points on 9-12 shooting. But he hit only two of his next 10 shots, finishing with 23 points and nine rebounds. It’s really too bad I hate Texas or otherwise I would have enjoyed this game more. It was neat (I guess) to see him honored and welcomed back. It looked like he was kind of pressing in the second half and frustration set in a bit when the margin was widened and his shot got off. He turned it over a few times and took a couple bad shots.
Russell Westbrook dished out another nine assists and turned it over just three times, which is very nice. But he scored just four points on 2-7 shooting. And before I say this next thing, understand that I know that it’s preseason and this is where you work on things and that it’s early. I know this. But… while I love Russ the Distributor, I think we need a little of Russ the Scorer. I don’t want to say he’s being too passive because he’s not, but nobody can break down an opponent on this team as well as he does. And he can’t get so locked into pass first that he gives away nice drives at the rim in favor of a pass. Who would have thought I’d ever be saying that? Again, I LOVE the way he’s turning into a true point guard, but the Thunder’s going to need him some as an offensive threat. I’m pretty sure it will come naturally which will make everything gel together wonderfully, but his passiveness is just something to note.
Westbrook did make some excellent passes tonight, passes that he never would have come close to seeing last year. While he finished with the nine assists, I counted AT LEAST five passes that directly resulted in an OKC player getting fouled for two free shots. He’s playing so patient and within himself right now. Like I said, you’d love to see the scoring come a little more. And I think it will. Which combining that with the new patient Russ and we’ve got ourselves a real deal point guard.
I really think Etan Thomas is going to give this team meaningful minutes. He looks healthy and is giving productive minutes. Which is something the Thunder absolutely did not get from the backup five last season. If he can play tough defense, rebound and give a solid 15 minutes a night, then I’m pumped. Remember, we got him for Chucky Atkins and Damien Wilkins. I think we already won that trade just in terms of preseason production.
- Welcome to the team James Harden! Finally we see a little of what we all loved about him. We knew it was coming. There was absolutely no reason to panic after a few preseason games, but it sure was nice to see Harden bust out of his offensive funk. He hit three DEEP 3s, drove the lane, created with the dribble and had a couple of very sweet assists. He finished with 17 points on 5-10 shooting but also handed out three helpers and grabbed five boards.
- Thabo Sefolosha was lets say, off. He went 0-6 from the floor and 1-4 from the line. And was a -25 in 25 minutes. Not an awesome game for Thabo.
- Another bright spot tonight though was Jeff Green’s offensive game. He showed it all – inside, outside, driving, back-to-the-basket. It was very nice. He finished with a game-high 24 on 10-16 shooting. Just two rebounds though.
- I really wish we had DeJuan Blair. I don’t know where he’d go since we’ve already got a bit of a logjam at the four, but it’s hard to ignore 17 points and 10 rebounds in just 15 minutes.
- Boy it really looks like Manu has lost quite a bit of hair on his crown. I thought Nenad Krstic had some follicle deficiencies. I think Manu has bigger problems.
- Nick Collison played just eight minutes and grabbed one board. Also, OKC was outrebounded 46-35.
- Russell Westbrook did have three blocks including one on Blair, which was awesome.
- The replacement refs stink. I realize they’re trying but man, there sure are a handful of crappy calls each game. Good thing it appears the real refs have reached an agreement to come back.
Now we’re left with just one more tuneup. And good thing too. I’m a little sick of these meaningless games. It’s hard to be upset when your team plays a crappy game when you know it doesn’t matter. It’s also equally as difficult to get excited when they play well. I’m ready for some real emotions.
Next is the last preseason game, Thursday at home at 7:00 against the Kings.