Thunder (Finally) Wins First Game of Season At Home Against Suns

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The Oklahoma City Thunder picked up their first win of the season in convincing fashion against a less than impressive Phoenix Suns squad on Sunday Night. The 117-110 victory was not as close as the final score shows, and even though the Suns are not exactly stiff competition, the win helped the Thunder get over that the hump that seemingly could not be overcome, and they can now focus on stringing together some wins.

Rapid Recap

The Thunder looked fairly typical to start the first quarter as far as this season goes. Through the first eight minutes of the game, Oklahoma City was playing from behind for the majority of the time, but they quickly turned things around as a number of guys started hitting shots. Patrick Patterson hit a couple of threes early, and Nerlens Noel made a big impact starting in place of the injured Steven Adams, and after the first period, the Thunder led 30-20.

Oklahoma City’s defense continued their strong effort in the second quarter, and as is typically the case for the Thunder, that led to easy offense. The Thunder pushed their lead to as many as 19 points, their largest lead on the season, and just about everybody was able to find some success on both ends of the floor. After forcing the Suns into 17 first half turnovers thanks to 12 steals, the Thunder was able to shoot 18-35 (51.4%) from the floor and 5-12 (41.6%) from three on the way to a 62-48 halftime lead.

The third quarter featured more of the same from Oklahoma City as the Thunder kept their foot on the gas and the defense put all kinds of pressure on the Phoenix defense. The lead swelled to 19 on a number of possessions, and then at the buzzer, Paul George electrified Chesapeake Energy Arena as he hit a halfcourt buzzer beater to put OKC up 96-76.

With the game well in the hand, the Thunder did a solid job in the fourth quarter at playing hard and closing things out, improving on the lead even to go up by 26 at one point. In the end, the Thunder dominance from essentially every area of the game proved to be too strong for the lesser-talented Suns, and Oklahoma City picked up their first win of the season.

Box Score

Thunder Player of the Game

Nerlens Noel started the game in place of the injured Steven Adams, and he played about as well as Thunder fans could have hoped. Noel put up 20 points on 9-14 (64.3%) shooting from the floor and 2-3 (66.7%) from the free throw line to go along with 15 rebounds, two assists, and four steals. Noel fits in to the Thunder’s desired long, athletic type of player, and he definitely looked the part tonight.

3 Quick Thoughts

  • Defense is the Key: Oklahoma City’s defense was as good tonight as it has been in a long time, which led to a number of offensive opportunities that would not have happened otherwise. The Thunder finished the game with 16 steals while forcing Phoenix into a ridiculous 22 turnovers. While the Suns are not exactly one of the best teams in the NBA, it’s a good game for the Thunder to build upon moving forward.
  • The Bench is Improved: Nerlens Noel looked good in a starting role, but let’s not forget that he won’t be there for long. His impact coming off the bench is something OKC desperately needs, but he’s not the only one who had an impressive night. Dennis Schröder has struggled shooting the ball so far this season, and while he still shot just 4-10 (40%) for 14 points tonight, he also managed to rack up seven assists and four rebounds. Patrick Patterson, who was removed from his starting role as of Thursday night against the Celtics, also had his best night of the season as he went for 17 points on 6-10 (60%) shooting and four rebounds. All in all, this squad has some guys who can offer up some solid minutes off the bench, which is a luxury the Thunder has not been afforded in recent years.
  • This is Just the Start: The 0-4 record that the Thunder showed coming into tonight’s game wasn’t exactly fair. They just as easily should have been 3-1, but sometimes, the shots don’t fall like you want them to, and the other team gets the best of you. Excuses aside, Oklahoma City did what was necessary to get the win tonight, and now they can start looking forward to racking up more wins. Looking at the next 11 games, the Thunder plays six games against teams that should be nowhere near the playoffs, a couple of games against playoff-fringe teams, and three against playoff-probable teams. It’s time to start putting some win streaks together.

Another Shot at the Clips

The Thunder gets another game against the Los Angeles Clippers on Tuesday, but this matchup is in Oklahoma City. The Clippers got the best of the Thunder on October 19th winning the matchup 108-92, and the Thunder should be much more prepared this time around. Tip-off is set for 7 PM, and the game will be televised on FSOK. The game will also be broadcast on the radio on WWLS 98.1 FM.

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