The Thunder beat the Spurs 111-102 last night behind 29 from Kevin Durant and 27 from Jeff Green. The starters scored 103 of OKC’s 111 points. The Thunder used a big fourth quarter to win, but it’s not as good as it seems as San Antonio wasn’t playing as many regulars as OKC was. Westbrook finished with 17 points and nine assists and was good overall. And James Harden was excellent, scoring 18 points on six shots and going 3-3 from downtown, along with five rebounds and four assists.
David Aldridge on NBA.com referenced that he thinks Jeff Green could still have an extension coming: “Green could certainly argue he deserves a new deal after averaging 15.1 points and six rebounds a game last season for the emerging Thunder. And Green’s agent, David Falk, has a way of persuading teams to see things his client’s way, so Green’s status may change by the deadline. Oklahoma City’s plan has been to keep its powder dry until its young core group came on line for new deals. But the next extension in OKC will certainly go to guard Russell Westbrook, not Green. And the Thunder is not likely to break the bank for many others on owner Clay Bennett’s watch, which means hard choices on the rest of the roster.”
I wrote a little on the 2007 class not getting extensions, and specifically about Green.
Darnell Mayberry wrote on it and talked to Scott Brooks about the poor transition defense from last night: “It was pathetic,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. “It’s something that we’re not proud of. They did a great job of really running out and scoring off of our misses. The first part of our transition defense is getting a good shot. We have to be able to consistently get a good shot every time down court so we have good floor balance and can get back in transition.”
Durant picked up a “respect for the game” technical last night for throwing his arms when he was unhappy with a generous continuation call. Then Russell Westbrook picked one up as well, but his wasn’t very clear as to why. It’s the first two technicals the Thunder’s been hit with this preseason.
Mayberry’s thoughts: “It was hard to not be impressed with Jeff Green tonight. He dominated the Spurs from the left block. Brooks made it a point to post up Green against Garrett Temple, Richard Jefferson and Matt Bonner. Green bullied all three and earned trips to the free throw line or 3-point plays. And the versatility that we hear so much about when it comes to Green became evident when he was able to take DeJuan Blair out to the perimeter whenever Blair came in. Green didn’t hit any 3s tonight, but just pulling the Spurs’ big away from the basket is beneficial. Also, when Green can get into a rhythm with touches down low and trips to the foul line, he is capable of putting together a monster game.”
The Thunder’s on the cover of this year’s Sports Illustrated preview issue. It features Kevin Durant and… Thabo and Nenad?
In terms of fantasy, this writer from ESPN loves Westbrook and Ibaka: “Russell Westbrook, PG, Oklahoma City Thunder: As one of the league’s quickest, most explosive point guards, I loved Westbrook last season and love him even more this season. I wouldn’t be surprised one bit if he turned himself into a top-20 fantasy player by season’s end. Serge Ibaka, C, Thunder: Inexperienced but undeniably talented, Ibaka averaged 8.1 points, 6.2 boards and 1.8 blocks in just 20.3 minutes per game after the All-Star break last season. As one of the more dominant shot-blockers in the league, Ibaka is one of my favorite late-round targets (along with JaVale McGee).”
Ziller previews the Thunder: “First and foremost, Westbrook must be more efficient. When a player controls as much of the offense as Westbrook does (nearly 26 percent of the offense when he’s in the game), he’s got to execute more efficiently than, say, Baron Davis. Westbrook shot just 44 percent on two-pointers and a ghastly 22 percent on threes last season. He became a much better playmaker in his second season (despite still-high turnover totals) and excels at getting to the rim. But he still takes too many long jumpers considering his lagging skill there. When every possession counts in the throes of a tight playoff series, you can’t be wasting attempts on a Westbrook 20-footer. He needs to either defer to Durant more frequently, or develop his jumper.”
Ken Berger of CBS Sports preview the Northwest Division and the Thunder: X-Factor: “Cole Aldrich. In yet another shrewd move, Presti packaged the 21st and 26th picks and sent them to cost-cutting New Orleans specifically to get Aldrich, who as a Kansas product will be more polished than most rookies. Not much can be expected offensively, but Aldrich could be a factor as a shot-blocker and rebounder, something the Thunder need to fortify their weak front court.”
Thanks for all the kind words about the preview. Hopefully next year it’ll be even better.