The Oklahoma City Thunder defeated the Charlotte Bobcats 120-98 in the Thunder's first home game of the regular season.
Our quick recap today will be brief, as we had to deal with the rare case of the fact that the Thunder-Bobcats game was not televised. Our man Zeb was at the game and will have a full recap in the near future, but for now here are the basic details.
What is your initial reaction to tonight's result?
The Thunder finally put forth a full game's effort that should be delivered by their talent-stuffed roster. To the Bobcats' credit, they kept things close for a half. At the midway point the Thunder only led by 4 points after playing a passive game over the first 24 minutes. The Cats managed to take a brief lead in the 2nd quarter, only to see the Thunder surge back ahead in the final moments.
In the second half however, the Thunder's star duo of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook began to exert themselves, and the Thunder defense rose to the challenge. The team outscored the Bobcats 24-14 in the decisive 3rd quarter, setting the stage for the Thunder's second tier of talent to finish things up in the 4th. Durant finished with 13 points on the night, with Westbrook chipping in 11.
If you're really rooting for the Thunder bench to show what they're made of, this 4th quarter was promising. Perry Jones III and Andy Rautins dominated the quarter, which enabled the Thunder to push their lead from 12 to 20 in the first 8 minutes, all but sealing the Bobcats' fate. PJIII finished with an outstanding stat line on the night, scoring 17 points on 8-10 shooting, collecting 4 rebounds while handing out 5 assists. Rautins began to make his case to become the Thunder's designated 3-point specialist, hitting 4-7 from long range on the night and finishing with a game-high 20 points.
Lastly, a special shout-out is due for Eric Maynor, who finally is looking like he's getting his sea-legs back. Maynor ran the 2nd unit in the fashion we had come to expect, scoring 10 points on 3-5 shooting while handing out a game-high 7 assists against a single turnover.
What was, overall, the main reason why the Thunder won?
The defense stepped up big in the beginning of the 2nd half, a good sign of what this OKC team is made of. The Thunder's offense can keep them in games most of the time, but when they choose to ratchet up their defense, they can wipe out lesser teams.
I am forever going to be beholden to the idea that this Thunder group should model themselves defensively after the great Bulls teams of the '90's. If you consider the sheer level of athleticism that exists among Durant, Westbrook, Serge Ibaka, Thabo Sefolosha, James Harden, and now PJIII, this team absolutely could become a suffocating full court defense, much like hte Miami Heat can do at times with LeBron, Wade, and Bosh. The potential is there.
What was a key statistic to understanding the game?
The Thunder as a team totaled 34 assists on the night, which is an outstanding showing for a team that is still learning how to put together 4 quarters of solid play. As we've written here before, a lesser team can equal a more talented team for a quarter of play, and perhaps two. Over the course of 4 quarters though, the talent disparity becomes too great. The greatest way to capitalize on such a talent disparity as we see between OKC and Charlotte is by making sure everyone gets a chance to contribute, and that chance is maximized by sharing the ball.
Here are the top individual assist totals:
- Durant: 7
- Eric Maynor: 7
- Nick Collison: 6
- Perry Jones III: 5
- Westbrook: 4
What does this game mean to the Thunder tonight and going forward?
The Thunder bench was the real treat in the blowout win, so we will continue to watch this bench unit closely as we creep closer to the regular season.
Thunder Wonder: Perry Jones III, 17 points on 8-10 shooting, 5 assists, 4 rebounds, in a great showing by the rookie.
Thunder Down Under: Serge Ibaka, continues his work in becoming a low-post threat by scoring 16 points and grabbing 10 rebounds.
Thunder Blunder: Cole Aldrich, who still has yet to inspire great confidence, grabbing only 5 rebounds and not scoring in 19 minutes of play.
Thunder Plunderer: Ben Gordon, who scored a game-high 21 points off of 7-15 shooting.
Next game: Friday, Oct. 19 vs the Phoenix Suns at 7:00PM CDT