The Oklahoma City Thunder played their second home preseason game in three days today as they hosted Melbourne United, an Australian team who is a member of the National Basketball League (NBL).
The Thunder started the game off strong as they jumped out to an 8-0 lead, but the early domination did not last long as Melbourne United did everything they could to stick around. Russell Westbrook put up 7 points, 4 assists, and 2 rebounds, while Paul George had 10 points and 3 rebounds, and Carmelo Anthony had 6 points and 2 rebounds as the Thunder ended the first quarter trailing Melbourne United 27-30.
The second quarter was much better for Oklahoma City defensively as they held United to just 15 points, and the offense picked it up in the last couple minutes of the first half as they finished on a 9-0 run to head into halftime with a 49-44 lead.
The starters began the third quarter on the floor, and Andre Roberson proved to be quite the lift for the Thunder as he put together a three-point play and a block on defense which led to a three-pointer by Carmelo Anthony in transition. At around the five-minute mark in the third quarter, Steven Adams gathered an offensive rebound and put it back for a slam dunk to give the Thunder their first double-digit lead of the game at 62-52. United fought back, however, to trim the deficit, and after three periods, Oklahoma City led 70-66.
Roberson continued his strong second half showing in the fourth quarter as he found his way to the free throw line nine times, making his first four attempts before missing all but one of the next five. Anthony, George, and Adams all saw fourth quarter minutes along with Roberson, and the game came down to one final possession for United. With 15.6 seconds left on the clock, the Australians had two different opportunities to win the game, but both times Josh Huestis blocked the shots, sealing the deal for the Thunder as they came away with the 86-85 win.
3 Quick Thoughts
- Chemistry Looks Good: One of the biggest concerns coming into this season has been whether or not Russell Westbrook, Paul George, and Carmelo Anthony, three ball-dominant stars, will be able to play well together or not. In today’s game, Thunder Head Coach Billy Donovan said in pregame that he wanted to try to establish some rotations similar to what will be used in the regular season, so we saw a lot of minutes for the starters, at least in the first three quarters. Westbrook finished the game with 9 points, 5 rebounds, and 7 assists in 28 minutes; George put up 22 points, 7 rebounds, and 2 assists in 39 minutes; and Anthony managed 19 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 steals in 31 minutes. Adams added a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds, along with 2 blocks, and Roberson had 9 points, 9 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals, and 2 blocks.
- 3-point Shooting Needs Work: Oklahoma City started off strong, making 4-8 (50%) from deep, but the Thunder finished 7-28 (25%) from three. After ranking dead last in the NBA in 3-point shooting a year ago with 32.7%, the Thunder has nowhere to go but up, and they will have to do better in the future if they want to see that happen. Paul George, who has been pretty good from deep in the preseason so far, made just 3-10, and four guys attempted at least two threes without a make. The talent is there to see the number of makes improve, but the shot selection needs to improve.
- The Young Guys Have Potential: This was by the far most minutes that the starters have played through the first three games of the preseason, but the younger guys looked pretty good today. Their play time in the regular season is a question mark right now, but Josh Huestis and Terrance Ferguson both made solid contributions which helped fuel Oklahoma City to a win. Huestis finished with 2 points, 2 rebounds, and 4 blocks, and Ferguson added 3 points and 2 steals.
Oklahoma City plays its final game of the preseason on Tuesday in Denver as the Thunder take on the Nuggets. Tip-off is set for 8 PM CT, and the game will be televised on FSOK. The game will also be broadcast on WWLS 98.1FM the Sports Animal.
Article written by Zack Low. Follow @TheThunderGuys on Twitter and Instagram.