The Oklahoma City Thunder continued their preseason voyage Sunday afternoon with a matchup against Melbourne United from Australia. The Thunder were in a tough battle with Melbourne and pulled out a tough 86-85 victory. It took two straight outstanding blocks from Josh Huestis to seal the win for the Thunder.
Thunder fans received an extended edition of the Thunder’s rotation players with Russell Westbrook, Paul George, Andre Roberson, Steven Adams, and Carmelo Anthony each playing over 27 minutes. Alex Abrines and Patrick Patterson remained inactive due to knee injuries.
In the first quarter, the Thunder got off to a hot 8-0 start after a Westbrook layup and two 3’s from Melo. The Thunder took advantage of transition opportunities led by Westbrook’s pace and distribution of the ball. Melbourne fought back into the game with some hot shooting as they knocked down five treys in the period. Melbourne’s hot shooting helped them take over the lead as the opening frame ended 30-27.
The Thunder made defensive adjustments as the second quarter began and limited Melbourne to zero treys in the quarter. Offensively, the Thunder execution looked great and they got outstanding looks around the rim as they scored 12 points in the paint. The Thunder took a 49-44 lead into the halftime break.
In the second half, after a layup from Steven Adams, the Thunder went without a field goal until 8:44 of the third quarter. The Thunder were getting the looks they wanted, taking shots they were capable of making but the ball was not finding the basket. A quick five points from Melo and a dunk from Steven Adams along with scrappy Thunder defense made the score 62-51 midway through the period. However, Melbourne answered with a 19-8 run to end the quarter trailing by only four.
In the fourth quarter, the Thunder used their stifling defense to make it tough for Melbourne inside and beyond the arc. Melo and George played deep into the period, but it was the role players who finished the job for the Thunder. Terrance Ferguson, Huestis, Jerami Grant, and Semaj Christon all played big roles in the final period. Defense was the key at the end, the length of the Thunder forced many tough layup attempts. At the end, Ferguson got a steal, George changed a shot at the rim, and Huestis finished it with two game saving blocks to win the game.
The Thunder defense continued to impress, holding Melbourne to just 34.6% percent shooting from the field and forcing 17 turnovers. Offensively, the Thunder struggled also shooting 34.6% from the field and only connecting on seven threes on 28 attempts.
George led the Thunder with 22 points and six rebounds. Adams chipped in with a double-double of 12 points and 10 rebounds. Melo contributed 19 points. Westbrook scored nine points with seven assists and five rebounds.
Melbourne United was led by Casper Ware’s 20 points. Josh Boone chipped in 15 points with 9 rebounds and Casey Prather had a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds.
The Thunder will wrap up preseason play with a Tuesday night showdown with the Denver Nuggets.