By Anthony Slater – Aslater@opubco.com - @anthonyVslaterWhen we last left off, Oklahoma City was playing the most important game in its franchise history, with the entire nation’s eyes watching Game 5 of the Finals.
On Wednesday night, when we picked back up, the Thunder were playing in a slightly different scenario, miles from the border in a meaningless exhibition against the Houston Rockets that wasn’t even locally televised.
But despite the differing stakes, it’s still good to have basketball back. And in the underwhelming showdown in Hidalgo, Texas, Houston beat Oklahoma City, 107-105, in the preseason opener. Here some quick reaction:
The stars were stars
Scott Brooks kept to his promise, limiting or eliminating minutes for his key players. Three starters (Kendrick Perkins, Thabo Seflosha and Serge Ibaka) sat out because of minor injuries and the other two (Russell Westrbrook and Kevin Durant) didn’t play more than 20. But despite the reduced playing time, both stars wowed the Hidalgo crowd during an eventful first half. Westbrook was on fire early on, scoring 16 of OKC’s 31 first quarter points, en route to 19 points on 6-9 shooting in just 16 minutes. And KD was KD, showing off his silky stroke during a 13-point, three-rebound first half (5-10 shooting) before watching the rest of the game courtside.
With his financial situation still in flux, James Harden is set to endure all the attention and scrutiny that comes with a star’s contract year. And the first play of that highly-publicized season (albeit preseason) couldn’t have been more fitting. Harden came off the bench early and immediately drove through the lane. As he darted through, Harden ran into Jeremy Lin (maybe the most publicized NBAer last season) for a questionable charge call. Maybe during the collision, Lin (now out of the New York market) was slipping a bit of that overwhelming media attention into Harden’s beard. Overall, Harden struggled with his shot in the opener, going 3-11 for nine points. But luckily for him, we’re about a month away from those stats being highly scrutinized.
Cole Aldrich started and went 5-7 shooting for 10 points and 10 rebounds. Hasheem Thabeet served as his backup, going 5-6 for 10 points, 10 rebounds and (per the Hasheem usual) six fouls. Daniel Orton didn’t play. At this point, the race for OKC”s backup center looks like a two-man race with Aldrich out in front. At the backup point, Reggie Jackson was first off the bench, playing 16 minutes, scoring four points and dishing out five assists. Surprisingly, Eric Maynor didn’t get into the game until late in the third, but once he arrived, he wasn’t gun-shy. Maynor had seven points (3-10 shooting) and added four assists in the final 15 minutes. Darnell Mayberry, who was in Hidalgo, will have more on NewsOK later.
Tweets of the night
A little glimpse into the atmosphere awaiting OKC in Hidalgo