Westbrook-Led Thunder Start 1-0
The Oklahoma City Thunder escaped the grips of a Philadelphia 76er defeat Wednesday night, coming from behind to win 103-97. The Wells Fargo Arena was electric for opening night and the home crowd was happy to welcome their newest rookie Joel Embiid to the floor after two seasons worth of injuries that kept him sidelined.
The Thunder really struggled on offense all night long. This will be a nightly question for OKC all season. The Thunder shot 41.5 percent from the floor and went 6-22 from behind the arc. It was not the worst shooting night, but it certainly wasn't a good night.
However, the Thunder figured some things out as the game went along. It helps when you have the steadying force of Russell Westbrook, who was in mid-season form and got a rude ovation from a Philly fan sitting on the baseline.
But the Thunder closed the game with Russell Westbrook in the mid-post, hitting jumpers over defenders. Enes Kanter and Steven Adams also closed the game together and really caused issues on the glass for the 76ers.
Overall, the Thunder gutted out a tough win. I think we will see this same song and dance multiple times over the course of this season. Tight games going down to the wire. But they got the win, which is most important. Here are my thoughts from the Thunder's season opening win.
- Russell Westbrook was perfect. Yes, I said it. Perfect. He really played well on both ends of the floor. He scored 32 points on 11-21 shooting and took just two three's, making one of them. He was great on the boards grabbing 12 rebounds and was just an assist shy (nine) of a triple-double. He did a great job getting people involved and then was awesome deciding when to take over the game late. He was in full control of the game. It was really fun to watch.
- Steven Adams and Enes Kanter were really good tonight. Not great, but good. Adams had a tough draw on Joel Embiid, who played very well in his NBA debut. But Adams did a nice job of getting the defense set, protecting the rim and was solid on offense. Adams scored 16 points, grabbed five rebounds and had three steals. He was active and was what the Thunder needed. Kanter came to life in the second half, scoring 17 points and grabbing 12 rebounds, five of them on the offensive glass. They were used in tandem tonight and that really caused problems for Philly. In the fourth, Adams and Kanter were running high-low sets. I thought that was a nice addition to the offense and one we hadn't seen in preseason.
- Victor Oladipo was really bad through the first three quarters. He was too aggressive on drives and was not finishing. He was beat off the dribble and on back cuts. But in the fourth he woke up. He hit back-to-back shots once he re-entered the game in the fourth and drew a huge charge on Embiid that locked the game up for OKC. This team needs a better Victor Oladipo. He has struggled some with fitting in with the new team and I think that was what we saw tonight. Victor shot 4-16 and only scored 10 points.
- The second unit was lead by Kanter's scoring, but Ersan Ilyasova scored 10 points and drew two charges. He was what the Thunder expected tonight. I thought Semaj Christon was good tonight, scoring four points, assisting four times and had zero turnovers. He was a nice backup point guard. I thought Domas Sabonis was a little nervous, but hit a three and scored five points. Alex Abrines scored on his only three of the night. He was decent and active on defense. Kyle Singler hit only one three and missed a few open three's. But he looked confident still.
- The Thunder only had 10 (!!!) turnovers all night. That is excellent. OKC out rebounded Philly by 10, 53-43. OKC also had 13 offensive boards, which is excellent.
The Thunder advance to 1-0 on the season and now head back to OKC to play Friday night for the home opener against the Phoenix Suns. Tip will be at 7 p.m. inside the Peake.