A sense of normalcy returned to the Thunder on Sunday night at Chesapeake Energy Arena when the team's starting lineup shared the court for the first time this preseason.
Guard Thabo Sefolosha and center Kendrick Perkins made their first appearances after offseason injuries in OKC's 108-101 victory over the Denver Nuggets before a sellout crowd of 18,203.
Sefolosha has been nursing a deep bruise to his left thigh for six weeks while Perkins completed his comeback from July 19 surgery to his left wrist after having a pin removed on Friday.
“To have the whole group back and play the way we know how to play was great,” Sefolosha said. “I think we made a conscious effort by coming out strong with the defense and I think we did that very well.”
Sefolosha played 20 minutes and had eight points (3 for 6 from the field; 2 for 4 from 3-point range), four rebounds, one block and several deflections.
Perkins played 18 minutes and had four points, four rebounds and two blocks.
“They're good players who know how to play, know how we play, and it did give us a little bit of a lift with our starting five,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said.
Reigning Sixth Man of the Year James Harden, who missed the previous three games with a left groin strain, also returned and finished with 16 points (5 for 13 from the field; 2 for 5 on 3-pointers), four rebounds, three assists and two steals.
“It feels great to be back out there,” said Harden, who has until Oct. 31 to agree to a contract extension or become a restricted free agent on July 1.
Perkins struggled with his offensive timing, committing two turnovers off passes and getting two shots blocked on consecutive possessions.
“Perk hasn't played in a live game since last year's Finals (on June 21),” Brooks said. “I thought he was good his first showing.”