The Oklahoma City Thunder kicked off the preseason by cruising to a 119-104 victory over the Dallas Mavericks in Tulsa, Oklahoma at the BOK Center. Even though the Thunder took control of the game late in the first quarter, the Mavs managed to take the lead back in the third quarter, but it didn’t last for long.
Let the Kiwi Shoot!
The Thunder’s first bucket of the preseason was nothing short of spectacular:
As fun as it was to see Steven Adams knocking down a corner 3, I wouldn’t expect too many of those in the future. As far as the rest of his game, however, the Kiwi is going to be the engine that makes the Thunder offense run.
Adams finished the game with 17 points while shooting 5-for-8 in just 22 minutes, and it’s pretty obvious that the Thunder is going to do whatever they can to get him going early and often.
Not only did he hit the corner 3 to start the game, but he had a nifty reverse layup, and his ability to get to the free throw line—and knock down most of his attempts—will keep the ball in his hands plenty.
The Potential On This Team is Wild
When you take a look at the youth across the Thunder’s roster, there is no doubt that Oklahoma City is in the midst of a rebuild. This could be a cause for concern, but that’s not the case here.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Hamidou Diallo, Terrance Ferguson, and Darius Bazley are all 21-year-old or younger, and they all saw significant minutes tonight. In their play time, they each put on various displays of athleticism, and at the very least, they are going to be a ton of fun to watch this season.
Just take a look at this play from early in the first half:
Darius Bazley appears to get into trouble in the corner, but he drives down the baseline and finds a cutting Terrance Ferguson for a monster slam dunk.
Then there was this one from Hamidou Diallo:
Boban Marjanovic falls asleep and passes the ball right into the reigning NBA Slam Dunk Champion’s hands, who takes a single dribble before rising up for a dunk that got the Thunder bench off their seats and onto their feet.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, one of the Thunder’s three point guards who started tonight’s game, could see his chance to grow as a player stunted if Chris Paul and Dennis Schröder steal too much of the spotlight while on the court at the same time, but if tonight’s performance was any indicator, that’s not going to happen.
SGA finished the game with 24 points—what would be a career-high— on 7-for-12 (58.3%) from the field—including 4-for-8 (50.0%) from 3—and 6-for-7 (85.7%) from the charity stripe. Oh, and he did it in just three quarters of play.
Let’s See Some Defense
I get that it’s preseason, but the defense was pretty bad. There’s not much of a need to play defense when you’re making just about every shot you put up, but shots aren’t always going to fall, and in the short periods where the offense sputtered, the defense didn’t exactly help keep the lead.
Losing Paul George, Jerami Grant, and even Russell Westbrook will undoubtedly play a part in the defensive strategy of the team, but there are plenty of positives to focus on headed into the new season.
Chris Paul has been a solid defender his entire career, and even though he is towards the end of his career, he’s still a reliable ball-stopper.
Andre Roberson has not played in a game in 21 months, but his return will be a welcome sight, and regardless of his ability to return to his defensive greatness from before, he can mentor the youth on the team, which should also be an asset on the defensive end.
I’m sure the defense will be more of a focus moving forward, but that is certainly not an area you want to find yourself struggling as the season really gets going.
Kiwis in OKC
The Thunder’s next preseason game is a home matchup against NBA prospect RJ Hampton and the New Zealand Breakers. The Breakers won 4 National Basketball League (NBL) championships in 5 seasons from 2010-2015. This is the third NBA preseason game for the Breakers and the second this season. Tip-off is at 7 PM CDT, and the game will not be televised . It will be broadcast on the radio at WWLS 98.1 FM.
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