The Thunder finished off their preseason schedule beating the Mavs at home today. Despite the final score, the Thunder put together a much stronger effort tonight. The team looked more efficient on both sides of the floor, limiting turnovers, and once again had a strong defensive effort against the Mavs. The Thunder were up by 21 entering the fourth, and it wasn’t until the final moments that the Mavs brought it within single digits.
Scott Brooks went with the same starting five. However, Thabo Sefolosha picked up three fouls in the first four minute, which lead to Harden playing much of the first half. Regardless Brooks had to have liked what he saw, deciding to take out the starters after gaining sizeable lead midway in the third.
How well did the Thunder do tonight? They managed to outrebounding Mavs 51-39. Like the final score, the margin was much larger when the starters left. At one point, The Thunder had a 35-17 rebounding advantage over the Mavs. Tyson Chandler will sure be missed this year.
Dirk only had 6 points on 2 for 10 shooting. Serge Ibaka was tasked with guarding him for much of the night, and never really let Dirk get close to the basket. Both leading scorers from last game, Dominique Jones and Rodrique Beaubois failed to match Sunday's performance as both their roles we're limited.
The real winner of the preseason has to be Cole Aldrich. When the Thunder re-signed Nazr Mohammed after last season, many took that mean the Thunder lacked confidence in Aldrich. However tonight we saw a strong performance on both ends of the floor, he finished with 8 boards and 4 blocks.
Kendrick Perkins once again showed he was a new man. He had a reverse layup and a dunk early in the game, both off drives to the basket. He got hit with a technical early in the first for getting into it with Brendon Haywood. The two continued to quarrel throughout the time. So, he’s still grumpy, maybe that hasn’t changed. He’ll get his first real test guarding Dwight Howard on Sunday.
If there is one thing to be concerned about, it is that for the second straight game the Thunder bench nearly gave up a large lead late in the game. A variety of factors could contribute to this, anywhere from Brooks wanting to evaluate the end of the bench a little more, to the meaninglessness of a preseason game. Either way it will be something to keep an eye on in the early parts of the season.
For the Mavs, it appears their championship defense will rely on their offensive firepower. Both Lamar Odom and Dirk Nowitizki are a rare breed of big men with an outside shot. Individually, both are extremely difficult to guard, together the Mavs are hoping will lead to championship. Regardless it should be an exciting season.
Thunder Wonder: James Harden, 13 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists
Thunder Down Under: Cole Aldrich, 6 points, 8 rebounds, 4 blocks
Thunder Blunder: Thabo Sefolosha, 8 points, 3 Rebounds, 3 fouls
Thunder Plunder: Shawn Marion, 10 points, 6 Reounds
Next Game: The Orlando Magic, Sunday December 25th, 7 PM Central Standard Time