SACRAMENTO, Calif. — P.J. Carlesimo insists he hasn’t settled on a starting unit and a second string.
But what became surprisingly clear following Wednesday night’s preseason opener is the Thunder coach could have ample ammo off the bench this season.
The goal for the Thunder is now duplicating that productivity in tonight’s second dress rehearsal, against the Sacramento Kings.
"I hope that we have enough guys contributing that we can get a lift when we go to the bench,” Carlesimo said. "If you can get up to where you’ve got an eight-, nine-, 10-man rotation, and they’re all playing well, that gives you a chance to be a better team.”
It was the subs who saved the Thunder from getting run out of the gym in Wednesday’s 88-82 loss, as they erased a 26-13 second-quarter deficit and rallied the team to a 41-40 halftime lead.
The foursome most responsible for the turnaround was rookie Russell Westbrook, Damien Wilkins, Desmond Mason and Johan Petro. Training camp invitee Chris Alexander chipped in five points and four rebounds in just six minutes.
But while Kevin Durant, Jeff Green and Earl Watson struggled, combining to go 5-for-27 from the field for just 16 points and 11 turnovers, Westbrook, Wilkins, Mason and Petro contributed 40 of the team’s 82 points.
Veteran Joe Smith, who didn’t play because of injured toenails but could make his debut tonight, is expected to only add to that group’s firepower.