The Oklahoma City Thunder began their journey into the 2018-2019 season as they went head-to-head against the defending back-to-back champions, the Golden State Warriors. The Thunder fought valiantly, however, the champs’ firepower proved to be too much. The Warriors took the victory 108-100 on a night where they also received their championship rings.
OKC was forced to enter this season without the services of Russell Westbrook and Andre Roberson due to respective knee injuries. Steven Adams got the late nod to play, despite nursing a back injury. The Thunder walked into Oracle Arena hobbled but prepared for battle. Paul George, Patrick Patterson, Terrance Ferguson, Dennis Schroder, and Adams were the Thunder starting five.
OKC came out looking a bit sloppy offensively, a combination of missed layups and bad passes resulted in a slow start. The Warriors jumped out to an early 15-8 lead, eventually building the lead to double digits at 29-19. Stephen Curry showed no signs of a championship hangover, scoring 12 points in the first quarter (hitting 2 threes). Kevin Durant got into a groove early, getting easy layups, and nailing mid-range jumpers. Durant finished with 10 in the quarter. The Thunder trailed 31-23 after the first quarter.
The Thunder played back and forth basketball with the Warriors in the 2nd quarter, making small runs to cut the lead to as little as 7. However, the Warriors would answer with a run that would build their lead back to double-digits. The Thunder leaned on Schroder’s ability to create shots off the pick-and-roll in the quarter. George was not able to find much offense in the first half, forcing shots and passes. OKC’s offense struggled in the first half and the Warriors capitalized taking a 57-47 lead into halftime.
Oklahoma City came out with a boost of tenacity on both ends in the 2nd half, jumping out to a 22-9 advantage that gave the Thunder a 69-66 lead. The pace picked up, as the momentum was quickly shifting to OKC. George caught the hot hand and Schroder stayed aggressive as they led the charge. The Warriors answered with a 9-2 run to take the lead back. George maintained his offensive onslaught scoring 15 points in the quarter. The Thunder trailed 83-79 after three quarters.
The bench unit for the Thunder kept the game close, taking good shots and playing with effort defensively. Hamidou Diallo continued his success from the preseason and continued to be fearless and aggressive. The Thunder bench unit kept the Thunder within one possession and they trailed 89-87 midway through the final period.
As the clutch moments approached for both teams, the differences between the two seemed apparent. The Warriors could put the game into the hands of Curry or Durant, and still have the presence of a Klay Thompson and Draymond Green out there. OKC depended on George all night, however, the clutch moments are what Westbrook lives for. Westbrook’s absence was felt more than ever in the final moments. The Warriors outscored the Thunder 11-6 in the final 4:28 to take home the opening night victory.
The Thunder shot just 36% from the field and 27% from three. They also struggled from the free throw line, hitting 24 out of 37. The Warriors were able to win the rebound battle (57-46) and dished out 28 assists. The Thunder defense showed great effort, forcing 20 turnovers, and getting 11 steals. The Warriors dominated the paint 58-34.
Curry showed out on opening night, finishing with 32 points, nine rebounds and eight assists. Durant dropped 27 points along with eight rebounds and six assists. Thompson put in 14 points. Draymond pulled down 13 rebounds and dished five assists.
George led the Thunder with a nice state line of 27 points, 5 assists, 4 steals and 2 rebounds. Adams had a double-double with 17 points and 11 rebounds. Schroder had 21 points, a career-high nine rebounds, and six assists. The Thunder bench scored 28 points.