Three OKC things to watch
1. Westbrook’s bounceback - The confident but streaky guard was off last night. No doubt about that. He went 6/21 shooting, committed six turnovers and got lost on Tony Parker’s game-winning shot. But that’s what you get with Westbrook, occasional implosions during a season full of positive impact. He’ll look to return to form tonight, in the home opener against Portland and, in the process, turn those Internet haters back to Westbrook lovers. At least for one night.
2. Ibaka’s offense - All preseason, Serge Ibaka showed a refined offensive game, extending his shooting range and improving his post moves. It didn’t show in the opener. Ibaka went 2/7 from the floor, while struggling to contain the aging (but still effective) Tim Duncan on the other end. On Friday, he faces another stout frontline, with All-Star Lamarcus Aldridge paired with the athletic J.J. Hickson.
3. Martin’s continued implementation - Test #1 was a success, with Kevin Martin slipping seamlessly into the James Harden bench role. He was third on the team with scoring, with 16 points, and showed an ability to make plays for others, adding six assists. Let’s see how day two goes.
Three Portland players to keep your eye on
1. PG Damian Lillard - Twenty-three points, 11 assists and a convincing win over the star-studded Los Angeles Lakers. How about that for a rookie debut from a relative unknown from Weber State. But he’s not going against Steve Nash’s wounded shin or Steve Blake’s feeble defense on Friday night. He’s got the defending Western Conference Champs and, arguably, the most athletic point guard in the league (Russell Westbrook). Welcome to the league young fella.
2. SF Nicolas Batum - With Portland’s struggles over the past few years, this athletic wing has flown a bit under the radar. He’s a talented defender, using his lanky wingspan and natural bounce to affect even the best of scorers, and an improved offensive scorer, dropping in 26 during the season-opener over LA. Intriguing matchup with Kevin Durant tonight.
3. PF LaMarcus Aldridge - A 6-foot-11 post scorer from anywhere on the floor, Aldridge is the Blazers best player. To upset OKC in its home opener, Portland needs a big effort from their cornerstone. And historically, he has delivered against the Thunder, scoring 15, 20, 30 and 39 against them last season.