It comes as no surprise that the most explosive player on the Thunder's roster erupted from the opening tip in the team's preseason debut.
Russell Westbrook scored 16 of his team-high 19 points in the first quarter of the Thunder's 107-105 loss to Houston on Wednesday night in Hidalgo, Texas.
Westbrook took advantage of Jeremy Lin, the former New York point guard whose exploits earned him the nickname Linsanity, from the start, posting up the smaller Lin on the left block to generate easy buckets in between a barrage of pullup jumpers.
Westbrook scored 13 points in the first six minutes and finished with three assists, two rebounds and just one turnover in 16 minutes. After going 6-of-9 from the field and 2-for-3 from 3-point range, Westbrook sat the entire second half.
IBAKA A LATE SCRATCH
Forward Serge Ibaka did not play in Wednesday's opener after sustaining a left quad contusion.
Thunder coach Scott Brooks said Ibaka is day-to-day and was held out more for precautionary reasons.
Ibaka banged up his leg in Tuesday's practice, and the team decided to sit him out after he could participate in only a portion of Wednesday's shootaround.
“He'll be fine (Thursday), hopefully,” Brooks said. “It is truly a day-to-day (injury).”
LIGGINS LOOKS GOOD IN THUNDER DEBUT
DeAndre Liggins made the most of his opportunity Wednesday night, impressing with a solid all-around performance that put his toughness and versatility on display.
Liggins, a 6-foot-6 shooting guard, is only a training camp invitee on a non-guaranteed contract. But he played an inspired game against the Rockets, showing off his defensive skills and an ability to work around the rim for easy baskets.
But it was his hard-nosed, man-to-man defense on the Rockets' guards, including this year's 12th overall pick in Jeremy Lamb.
“He plays defense with everything he has,” Brooks said. “And you love guys that play with their hearts out every possession. He's determined to get a stop. I like his toughness. I like his length. He's always pursuing. He never gives up on plays. He's one of those stay-and-play-type of guys. You can never ever have enough of those guys.”
Brooks showed Wednesday that he is set on backing up his promise of minutes to every player with the team in training camp.
Brooks played 12 of the 16 available players Wednesday and, as he said he would do, limited both Westbrook and Kevin Durant to 20 minutes or less.
“It's definitely a great opportunity,” Brooks said. “The exhibition season is always important because we've got guys fighting for minutes. We have guys trying to make the team.”
Daniel Orton, Andy Rautins, Walker Russell Jr. and Hollis Thompson were the only available players that did not receive playing time. But their opportunities likely are coming soon.
“Our three bigs are going to get plenty of opportunities to play and see what they bring to the table,” Brooks said. “And they're going to get consistent minutes. Sometimes that's hard to do. When you have a healthy team, there's not a lot of minutes to go around. But as a player, you always want an opportunity and you want some consistent time, and those guys are going to get some good looks.”
Thabo Sefolosha (quad) will not play Friday at Utah. The team will re-evaluate him following the Jazz game. ... Westbrook continues to wear the Jordan Brand line of shoes, essentially ending the suspense of which shoe company he has chosen after his contract with Nike expired. Westbrook sported a pair of Thunder-colored Jordans in Wednesday's preseason opener and even wore a pair of Jordan Brand slippers in the locker room. ... Brooks said before the game that it's possible James Harden starts “a game or two” this preseason. ... Eric Maynor played third-string point guard behind Westbrook and Reggie Jackson on Wednesday. It was Maynor's first game since tearing his ACL early in the season at Houston last year. Maynor checked in for the first time with 3:14 remaining in the third quarter and finished with seven points and four assists in 15 minutes. ... The Thunder received a considerably louder ovation than the Rockets despite being the road team. As OKC took the court, the public address announcer introduced the team as “the defending Western Conference champion Oklahoma City Thunder.”