We've spent the last few games giving priority to the main guys on the roster, and rightfully so. But there were a few guys who probably had their Thunder swan song tonight, so I'd like to focus on them.
First of all, it's been fun to watch Andy Rautins. He doesn't have any flashy moves, or do anything that will really wow you. I've seen him creep for a few steals, but he doesn't have the athleticism to lead the fast break or explode to the hole. The reason I liked watching this guy is because every time he got the ball, you almost knew you were about to bear witness to a three. But he didn't just jack up shots left and right like John Starks. He was smart enough to headfake a guy and dribble around him, while also possessing the awareness to pass the ball when things weren't working out. He's not an NBA-level player, but it was kind of cool just to see his different style of play.
I'd also like to give a shout out to Hollis Thompson, who had some spot minutes tonight. There really wasn't too much of this guy to see tonight, or any night he played, really. But even though he was an Andy Rautins type of player, you could tell that the Thunder weren't about to use him as a three point specialist. They've spent the Pre-Season trying to develop his defensive toughness and teach him some better move offensively so he can be a more complete player. But if he is to see the Thunder, it will probably have to be via working his way through Tulsa.
The other two guys are Daniel Orton and DeAndre Liggins, both of whom didn't play tonight and both of whom could potentially make the roster. I won't write either of their swan songs just yet, but I'd be thrilled to see either of them on the roster.
Anyway, I suppose we can talk about the real game now. The Thunder were pretty dominant in this one, and though the score was low, it wasn't the ugliest game to watch in the world. There weren't too many fouls slowing things down, and both teams played at a high pace. It just seemed like for one reason or another neither team could get a good half-court offense going.
For James Harden, it was yet another day of struggle. He actually got a few shots to go, but the couple extra shots he made tonight were offset by his four turnovers. His defense was actually pretty decent, as no Mav guards were threatening to get to the rim. Still, if there was one guy who I'd predict to stumble out of the gate, it'd have to be him.
Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant both had solid nights, and you could feel that they ramped up the intensity a little bit. They weren't taking it to the hole and throwing up huge celebrations, but they were just standing around and taking jump shots, either. They led the fast break pretty well, and both of them had some really athletic layups against their defenders. Durant was the centerpiece of the first quarter offense with 9 points.
Serge Ibaka was the story of the second quarter, and his game has continued to develop. Sure, some of his baskets were a bit too easy because both teams forgot to play post defense today, but he had his share of jumpers too. Kendrick Perkins was a bit of a butterfingers inside today, but he had two really nice looking half hook/half floaters from the corner of the key. Both of those shots looked buttery smooth when they went in, and it looked like a nice alternative to having him shoot a traditional jump shot.
On Dallas' end, Jae Crowder, an early second round pick out of Marquette, has been a huge story. He led the team in scoring tonight with 21, and he was hitting some really tough jumpers. He didn't look like an excellent shooter, but he could definitely score, and he had a nice sens of when to take it in the lane. He'll probably be buried on the Mavs depth chart, but it will be interesting to see how he develops.
Anyway, that's all I've got for tonight. The position battles and et cetera raged on, but nothing we saw tonight was really eye opening as far as they're concerned, and I've discussed them to death already. Tonight was more about fine tuning the regular guys and getting all of the kinks out while trying to entertain the Wichita fans. The regular season starts in a week. Are you ready?!
Thunder Wonder: Kevin Durant, for a nearly flawless game.
Thunder Down Under: Serge Ibaka, for continuing to produce offenseively.
Thunder Blunder: Cole Aldrich, for failing to score in front of his home state fans.
Thunder Plunderer: Jae Crowder, for being the only reliable Mavs scorer.
Next Game: THE REGULAR SEASON! At the San Antonio Spurs, Thursday, Nov 1st, 8:30 PM Central Daylight Time.