The Thunder held off Utah 101-98 in the season-opener on Wednesday night. Here’s some rapid reaction:
Playing in front of an expectedly rowdy crowd in the opener, Utah blitzed the Thunder with early energy and jumped out to a quick lead. Then the Thunder went to the bench. Then the game changed. Scott Brooks played 10 guys in the first half, including a nearly six-minute stretch with all bench players on the floor. During that span, OKC’s second-unit turned a 24-21 deficit into a 34-31 lead. It was a spurt that flipped momentum, as the Thunder didn’t trail the rest of the game.
It was over when…
…Gordon Hayward’s game-tying three clanged off back-rim, ending the Jazz’s frantic quarter-long rally. OKC held the lead for the entire second-half, but it seemed like the whole fourth quarter was played in a one-possession game. The Thunder shot 4-of-16 in the final 12 minutes, committing seven turnovers, making sloppy mistakes and nearly allowing Utah to steal the opener. But OKC closed, thanks in large part to Kevin Durant and his clutch play down the stretch.
Star of the game – Kevin Durant
With Russell Westbrook out, many have predicted some potentially big numbers for KD in the early months. He delivered in Game 1, dropping 42 points, six rebounds and three steals. He was an uncharacteristically inefficent 9-of-24 from the field, but made up for it with constant and powerful attacks of the rim, earning him a 22-of-24 day from the line.
Vine of the night
Thabo Sefolosha was steady throughout the night, contributing 14 points, four rebounds, two steals and his typically reliable defense. Plus, he provided us with the highlight of the night:
Solid stat of the game
Reggie Jackson had a career-high five steals on Wednesday night. He continually jumped passing lanes, using his length and instincts to create big plays. Encouraging defensive performance.
Ugly stat of the game
Overall, the Thunder only had nine assists on 33 made field goals. That’s an extremely low percentage, especially for a team who preached (and showed) better ball movement throughout the preseason. Lot of ball-stopping and isolation on this night.
Steven Adams was quiet in his debut: 18 minutes, two points, three rebounds, an assist and three fouls. But maybe his presence has awoken Kendrick Perkins a bit, as the veteran looked spry for stretches. His line: 27 minutes, four points and eight rebounds (the most he’s had in 18 games).
OKC travels to Minnesota for a Friday night game against the Wolves, a team many have slotted as a potential surprise this season. Tip is at 7 p.m. Minnesota won its opener in overtime over Orlando.