After an eventful summer that saw the Thunder revamp their roster, Oklahoma City fans tuned in to see the return of some exciting, high-energy Thunder basketball.
The Oklahoma City Thunder opened up regular season play Thursday night against the New York Knicks in front of a sellout crowd at the Chesapeake Energy Arena. A triple-double from Russell Westbrook and a strong 2nd half performance from the Thunder earned them a 105-84 victory.
It was a night of old friends and new foes as Carmelo Anthony faced his former team and Enes Kanter and Doug McDermott returned to Oklahoma City. Kanter recieved a standing ovation from the Thunder crowd and has some interesting exchanges while being guarded by his ‘Stache brother Steven Adams.
Head Coach Billy Donovan’s group was at full strength tonight as Raymond Felton and Patrick Patterson returned from injuries.
The Thunder’s W did not come easy, despite the lopsided final. The outstanding play of Knicks big man Kristaps Porzingis made this game interesting through the first half. In the first quarter, the Thunder settled for contested threes and there was little ball movement on most possessions. The opening stages of the game saw a back-and-forth battle before a 7-0 run gave the Thunder a 20-12 lead midway through the quarter, the Knicks responded a 12-4 run to end the quarter.
The Knicks took over the lead early in the second quarter as the Thunder continued to settle for contested shots. Porzingis continued to have his way against the Thunder defense. He used crafty footwork when defended by Patterson and used his height advantage to shoot over George and Melo.
The Thunder defense picked up the intensity to end the quarter and started to force turnovers. The Thunder ended the half on a 12-3 run led by Melo and George to take a 53-42 lead into halftime. George led the Thunder with 17 at the half.
In the second half, the Thunder turned up the pressure defensively and forced tough shots and turnovers. The transition opportunities off of the stifling defense opened the door for the Thunder to pull away.
The Thunder went on a quick 9-2 run to build a 62-46 lead and eventually built the lead to 21 before the end of the quarter. Westbrook’s speed, energy and distribution of the ball carved up the Knicks defense. In the third, Russ found each of his fellow starters for baskets. The Thunder led 79-59 after three quarters and outscored the Knicks 26-25 in the fourth to finish the game.
The defense forced the Knicks into 40% shooting from the field and only seven threes on the night. The Thunder also forced 26 turnovers, resulting in 38 points. Offensively, the Thunder shot 43% from the field and connected on 11 threes out of 38. Also, they assisted on 26 of the 39 made field goals.
The OKC 3 each had big games as George led the way with 28 points, Melo dropped 22 on his former team, and Westbrook had his first triple-double of the season (21 points, 16 assists, 10 rebounds)
Porzingis led the Knicks with 31 points and 12 rebounds.
The Thunder return to action on Saturday night with a road clash against the Utah Jazz.