By Anthony Slater – Aslater@opubco.com - @anthonyVslater
Backed by strong performances from the stars, Oklahoma City smoked Portland 106-92 in the home opener on Friday night. Here’s some rapid reaction:
It was over when…
…Oklahoma City lost the season opener in heartbreaking fashion the night before. There was just a feeling that this team, with legit title aspirations, wasn’t going allow an 0-2 start. Not against Portland and not in the home opener.
Star of the game – Russell Westbrook
The Thunder’s most polarizing star did what he’s known for doing. One night after a terrible showing, Westbrook shook off the rust and poured in a game-high 32 points on 13/24 shooting, adding six assists and five rebounds. He was in attack mode all game, abusing Portland’s young point guard duo (Damian Lillard and Nolan Smith).
Way too early season prediction
Kevin Durant will average double-digit rebounds this year - I know, sounds a little bold considering the lanky forward has never averaged more than eight in his previous five years in the league. But take a closer look at the numbers. All but one time, his rebounding numbers have increased from the year prior. Last season, he topped out at eight. Through two games this year, he’s averaging 15.5 boards. Keep an eye on it.
Harden shines, Martin produces
James Harden was in Atlanta Friday night, dropping a career-high 45 points and nudging national pundits to declare Oklahoma City’s questionable trade an immediate failure. That remains to be seen. But in the meantime, Kevin Martin has more than done his expected job in Thunder land. OKC’s new bench scorer dropped in 19 points on 11 shots, scoring with efficiency and timeliness. He hit all three of his triples, including a dagger in the fourth quarter.
Trending upward – Nick Collison’s underrated production
Twelve points, five rebounds and two assists in 27 minutes. Nick Collison was quietly effective, slowly stalking the baseline for backdoor dunks and providing perfect on-ball and help defense. He continues to prove he may not be the big man to start the game, but should be the one finishing it.
Trending downward – Kendrick Perkins’ offensive game
I understand the concept — give your defensive-minded big man a post feed once in a while to keep him happy — but at this point it’s almost pointless. Just an empty possession. The Thunder fed Kendrick Perkins twice on Friday night. Both times, the offensively challenged Perkins left a baby hook extremely short. This season, Hasheem Thabeet has more points (4) than Perkins (2).
Stat of the game
Fifteen of Kevin Durant’s game-high 17 rebounds came on the defensive end. And it was needed, as the Thunder’s starting frontcourt (Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins) only grabbed six combined defensive boards.
Tweet of the game
Atlanta comes to Oklahoma City for a Sunday showdown. The Hawks are 0-1, falling victim to James Harden and the Rockets Friday night in their opener.
Video of the game