Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant, right, drives the ball past the Kings’ Omri Casspi during Wednesday’s game at the Ford Center. Photo by Chris Landsberger, The Oklahoman
The Thunder only started Wednesday’s lineup 16 times last season because Krstic and Sefolosha were acquired in mid-season and injuries to Durant prevented seven more opportunities.
They went just 3-13 as a unit that spent last season searching for its rhythm. But the pieces looked much more comfortable Wednesday.
"Training camp and the preseason helped us out,” Durant said. "And just getting that bond, getting to know where guys need the ball on the floor. Guys like Thabo and Nenad have been great additions to our team. They came a little later, but we’ve been working hard and hopefully it starts to show.”
With Brooks playing just nine players, and Green and Durant receiving more than 39 minutes apiece, the Thunder needed a big game from its starting unit. They responded by out-rebounding a taller and perhaps more athletic frontline with a team effort. All five starters had five or more rebounds.
Their hustle is what stood out most. Six days after this same Kings team blew out the Thunder by 15 in its preseason finale, the Thunder made sure to give better effort Wednesday.
A third-quarter play by Russell Westbrook defined the intensity on the night. After a turnover on a inbounds pass led to a one-man breakaway for Kings rookie guard Tyreke Evans, Westbrook sprinted back and contested the dunk but fouled Evans from behind.
The Thunder was ahead 20 at that point.
"It feels good,” Green said. "Getting that first win, especially at home for the fans, it feels real good.”