Seemed like fun for awhile. Kevin Martin returning James Harden's serve with a second quarter for the ages. Kevin Durant flirting with what would have been his first triple double.
But something is amiss in Thunderville.
The Thunder lost to the short-handed Hawks 104-95 Sunday night in a quiet Chesapeake Arena, and Harden's void didn't have anything to do with it. Unless The Beard took the Thunder's smarts and want-to with him to Houston.
“We're trying to win,” said Kendrick Perkins. “We're not really talking about the trade. The trade is done. We've got enough talent in here to win games.”
No kidding. Martin was sensational, with 28 points on 8-of-11 shooting. His 19-point second quarter, achieved with only five shots, gave OKC a 51-47 halftime lead but masked how badly the Thunder played.
The Thunder was out-hustled and outsmarted. Atlanta outscored OKC 16-8 in second-chance points and 31-16 in points off turnovers. In other words, the Hawks craved the ball and took care of it once they corralled it.
It's way too early to be concerned about the Thunder's record, although let's point out that at 1-2, OKC is a half game ahead of the 1-3 Lakers, whose start was labeled anywhere from disastrous to cataclysmic.
The remade Hawks were missing one of their cornerstones, Josh Smith, but took it the Thunder on both ends.
Atlanta shot 60 percent from the field in the first quarter and would have finished the game over 50 percent if not for two late misses when the game was decided.
“Lack of focus on the defensive end,” Perk said. “We gave ‘em too much confidence in the first quarter.”
Atlanta point guard Jeff Teague got to the basket repeatedly, but his teammates were effective, too, so much so that Teague sat the entire fourth quarter.
Ivan Johnson, who didn't even play in the Hawks' opener, became Ivan the Terrible, with 10 points in 12 minutes.
Meanwhile, the Hawks got in the Thunder's grill enough that OKC committed 21 turnovers.
The Thunder was so sloppy, Perkins even brought up the turnovers as a problem. You know it's bad when Gran Torino is talking anything other than defense.
“We know there's a lot of work to be done,” Scotty Brooks said. “We still have to figure some things out.”
The Harden trade messed with the Thunder's chemistry, no doubt. Foreman Scotty still is mixing and matching, trying to figure out how to play his revamped second unit.
But maybe the trade messed with the Thunder psyche even more. Despite Perk's proclamation, maybe the Boomers have been like the rest of us. So focused on how Martin will replace Harden, they've forgotten what made them great in the first place.
The Thunder A team was no good Sunday night, even with Durant producing 22 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists, albeit with six turnovers. The starters played together for 181/2 minutes and were outscored 41-35. That doesn't have anything to do with James Harden.
Early returns show that Martin will be fine. Harden's first two Rocket games channeled Oscar Robertson, with 37 and 45 points and monster assists. But K-Mart now has 62 points in three games, on 53-percent shooting.
If Harden and K-Mart are going to play “Can You Top This?” all season, we're in for a wild ride. But the Harden/Martin debate was the least of the Thunder's problems Sunday night.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.