Officially, the Thunder lost this game, 109 to 114. But the real game was played in the first half, which the Thunder lost by a solid 14 points. It's hard to tell whether the Thunder would struggle as mightily in the regular season. Steven Adams was out, so Kanter had to start at center again. Kanter's presence led to the usual travesty of no paint defense, along with horrible pick and roll coverage. Making it worse was the presence of Andrew Bogut on the other end. Bogut all but shut down Kanter, who only had 6 points in the first half. Bogut was just way too big for Kanter to make progress against.
There wasn't much help coming from the rest of the lineup, either. Roberson was out with a minor injury, leaving Singler to start at SF. That's a significant defensive downgrade. Sabonis' shot was off. Oladipo shot a paltry 1 of 9 through the first half. In terms of Oladipo's game, there just didn't seem to be a way for him to get to the basket. And when it comes to Oladipo shooting perimeter shots, that's just betting against the house.
This left Westbrook shouldering the offensive load. And Westbrook's normally killer mid-range shot went 0 of 6 tonight. Honestly, Westbrook just forced too many difficult twos. The Mavs knew Westbrook's range, and how to keep a man on him.
Anyway, the second half saw the Thunder fielding superior quality players most of the time. Carlisle's Mavs opened with their bench to start the third, and didn't play a single contracted player in the fourth. The Thunder never dipped into their uncontracted players (save for Semaj Christon), but still didn't have the offensive tools to close out the fourth. It's really going to be ugly trying to watch the Thunder bench try to produce offense if Kanter isn't in the mix.
We've done tons of grades here at WTLC. So with this recap, I'm going to do something a bit different....stocks. I'll go player by player and let you know whether their stock has gone up, down, or stagnant based on their performance tonight.
Abrines, Alex: DOWN. 1-7 FG, 1-4 3PT. When you take all of your shots 19 feet out from the basket or further, it’s hard to be accurate. Abrines was given a crucial possession with which to score late in the fourth, but missed an open mid-range jumper around a screen. Kinda lame that Abrines apparently has no ability to get to the basket. I’m a bit skeptical at this point.
Christon, Semaj: STAGNANT. 0 Pts, 0-5 FG, 3 Ast. Christon was perhaps a bit too trigger happy. On a crucial play late in the game, I saw Christon completely miss Lauvergne open in the paint, opting for a difficult floater. But perhaps it’s that aggressiveness that got the three assists for Christon. In any case, my impression of Christon at this point is that of an extremely raw, physical, and impulsive player.
Collison, Nick: STAGNANT. Two minutes of incredible experiences.
Huestis, Josh: UP. 11 Pts, 4-8 FG, 3 Reb. If Huestis can deliver this kind of production on a regular basis, he'll fit in fine. Huestis doesn't seem to be bothered by the clutch, scoring some big baskets in the fourth. Mostly, we just need Huestis to hit threes.
Ilyasova, Ersan: UP. 19 Pts, 7-11 FG, 3-5 3PT, 11 Reb, 3 TO. The high three point shooting is cool, but Ilyasova is no Morrow. At a 37% career percentage from three, Ilyasova will likely have good days and bad days. I am willing to give credence to the theory that Ilyasova has never been this open before, and could improve his three point percentage. Ultimately though, this game showed off Ilyasova's veteran garbage man skills. All of Ilyasova's twos had him popping up near the basket at the right moment. Some heroic boards too. Maybe a bit too much given to Dwight Powell defensively.
Lauvergne, Joffrey: UP. 15 Pts, 5-9 FG, 6 reb. I think of Joffrey Lauvergne as this mythical center from NBA past. Lauvergne has this slow, wide, sweeping post hook move. It's something you'd see Bill Russell or Bob Pettit do. Lauvergne's jumper even resembles that of old school players, because his release is so slow. But what Lauvergne lacks in speed he makes up for in girth, touch near the rim, and low post scoring ability. Easily the best third string center the Thunder have ever had. By like, a mile.
Morrow, Anthony: STAGNANT. 8 Pts, 2-4 3pt. Three man shoots threes!
Kanter, Enes: STAGNANT. 11 Pts, 13 reb, 2 blk. Today, Enes was all Enes. I'm glad Enes isn't usually the starter. Kanter's defense ruins the Thunder's starter theme of extreme defense.
Oladipo, Victor: DOWN. 9 Pts, 2-10 FG, 7 reb, 4 ast, 4 TO. Oladipo just can't seem to find a role at the moment. To be sure, Donovan is trying out various solutions. In this game, I saw Oladipo break into a couple of post-ups. But Oladipo didn't really have the bulk or skill to take advantage. Honestly, I believe that Oladipo can't be relied upon as the #2 scorer. I'm okay with giving Oladipo a good number of possessions to run. But I'd honestly rather see Kanter/Adams more often. But, I do believe that Oladipo has the potential to break out for huge performances, and perform effectively in fast-paced games.
Price, Ronnie: STAGNANT. 3 Pts, 3 ast, 1 TO. Solid line in limited time. But Christon finished the game, making me think we have a point guard battle on our hands. Price is the safe option.
Sabonis, Domatas: STAGNANT. 4 Pts, 0-5 3pt, 2 ast. Disappointing that Sabonis didn't make any threes, but no real big errors from him today. Physical defense of Dirk, whom only had 8 points. Impressive for a rookie.
Singler, Kyle: UP. 17 Pts, 4-6 3pt. It was pretty mind-blowing to see Singler make this many baskets. Even if they were all open threes. Singler's most intense point probably came when he made a big semi-circle with the ball in the half court and charged into a Mav defender near the rim, completing an And 1. It looked extremely unimpressive, but it went in. Plz more of this Kyle in the regular season.
Westbrook, Russell: STAGNANT. 12 Pts, 5-15 fg, 5 reb, 7 ast, 2 TO. Rough pre-season for Westbrook. I'll admit, part of this is Westbrook adjusting to life after Kevin Durant. Without Durant's dynamic shooting to distract from Westbrook's drives, Westbrook is going to have a harder time scoring off the basic pick and roll. Don't get me wrong, Westbrook's athleticism and skill are still there. But we're definitely going to see a bit of evolution from Westbrook's game this year. Less of Westbrook's simplistic, flashy plays designed for quick scores. And more of Westbrook using his speed to move the defense and create an opportunity for other players. More of Westbrook working within an offensive system too.
Thunder Wonder: Kyle Singler, who produced what will probably be a singularity. (Also, sometimes I want to call Kyle Singler “Kyle Singlet” or “Kyle Singular Wireless”, but I stop myself every time.)
Thunder Down Under: Ersan Ilyasova, the old trickster
Thunder Blunder: Alex Abrines, missed shots
Thunder Plunderer: Nicolas Brussino. 11 pts, 3-4 3PT. Brussino had some serious off the dribble skills and was making Singler look silly. I know Powell had more points. But I feel like Brussino’s points had more impact on the momentum of the game.
Next Game: Versus the Memphis Grizzlies, Thursday, October 13th, Tulsa.
What did you think of tonight’s game? Drop a comment and let us know!