Well honestly, I’m not sure that could have gone much better.
Oklahoma City’s starting five poured in 91 of the Thunder’s 102 points, as OKC rolled Sacramento 102-89 to open the season 1-0. Which also means we’re enjoying the first winning record in Thunder history.
Now, now before we get ahead of ourselves here we must understand this was a stinky Kings squad. And it’s just one game. Nobody should start dreaming of playoffs or a .500 record or anything like that. Yet.
Yes, everything went very well. If you scripted this out, I’m not sure it would’ve gone this well. OKC started with great energy, basically burying the Kings early. The Thunder outscored Sacto 39-22 in the first and really never looked back. The closest the Kings really got was the 13 they lost by when OKC had scaled everything back. Offensively, the Thunder looked near unstoppable. Weapons everywhere, points from everywhere and crisp, clean ball movement.
Russell Westbrook looked like an absolute STAR going for 14 points on 7-12 shooting, 13 assists, seven boards and just two turnovers. If this happens all season then maybe we can start getting ahead of ourselves. The new and awesomely improved Westbrook was something else. He played with his usual fire and energy, but really harnessed it. He just sees the court and plays so much better. A perfect example among many: the bounce pass to KD for a dunk late in the second quarter. He read everything perfectly and instead of jumping and getting caught mid-air and trying to force it to Durant, he slowed down and made a smart but decisive one-handed bounce pass. That play really summed it all up for me. Westbrook is a new player. A new and much, much better player. And he was pretty good to start with.
Kevin Durant scored and unassuming 25 points and grabbed 11 rebounds, while also dishing out four assists. Jeff Green was 4-5 from deep and had 24 points, eight boards and three blocks. Nenad Krstic had 20 and seven. Thabo Sefolosha scored eight and held Kevin Martin to a 5-19 shooting night. Everything fired on every cylinder tonight.
Speaking of Thabo, he’s off to a good start earning that check he cashed today. He played nice defense on Martin, and was productive offensively. He went 2-2 from 3, 3-7 from the field, had five rebounds and a block. He’s clearly the glue to this team defensively. He helps everywhere, rotates well and is one of the best communicators on that end. Color me happy that we locked him up.
A couple closing thoughts:
- Rumble came out right before the tip with a big bass drum and rolled on it producing a “rumbling” sound. Then he pounded on it slowly starting up a slow clap. I thought it was a nice touch.
- The two inactive players for the game were Byron Mullens and Kyle Weaver. With Thabo’s extension today, Weaver may find himself as the odd man out. I still think he’s worth a roster spot because injuries happen and he’s the perfect, versatile player to step in.
- No Serge Ibaka. No D.J. White. No Shaun Livingston. Not seeing all three sort of surprised me, but it really surprised me that Kevin Ollie is ahead of Livingston in the rotation. Ollie wasn’t bad, but didn’t really do a ton. But when your starter is playing like Westbrook, just giving a spell for a few minutes is enough.
- Thabo’s block on Martin? Delicious.
- Scott Brooks went with an interesting lineup before halftime of Westbrook, Durant, Green, Collison and Krstic. I would assume this is the big lineup that Brooks is going to go with to counter other team’s going big.
- I was a little disappointed with the crowd. The announced attendance was a sellout, but there were some big empty pockets in Loud City. The Kings aren’t the most attractive opponent, but I kind of expected more for opening night.
- The box score doesn’t show it, but I really liked what Etan Thomas gave tonight. Sure he had just two points and one rebound in 18 minutes, but he had a block and played tough, physical defense on the Kings’ big men.
- For his first game ever, James Harden played pretty well. Kevin Martin had his way with him a bit, but Harden was 2-2 from the floor for five points and hit one 3. He played just 13 minutes and I’ve got to think he’ll slowly get more time as the season goes on.
- Omri Casspi really impressed me. He’s going to be a good player.
- It was clearly the starters’ game tonight. Durant played 42 minutes, Green 39, Krstic 30, Westbrook 35 and Thabo 34. I don’t know if any point fewer than three starters weren’t on the floor at a time. And for good reason too: Russ was a +23, Durant a +17 (OH YEAH!), Green a +19, Krstic a +19 and Thabo a +12.
It’s a 13 point win over a poo poo team and exactly what we expected, but dang, it feels good to be 1-0. A loss would have took a lot of air out of us, but not only was this win good, it kind of inflates our balloon even more. It was everything we could have wanted. The Thunder shot 51 percent, went 8-14 from 3, outrebounded Sacto and had just 13 turnovers. Oh, and won 102-89.
Next up, OKC takes its 1.000 winning percentage to Detroit Friday night for a duel with the Pistons.