Ever since reigning Sixth Man of the Year James Harden was traded to Houston last Saturday, many in the media insist OKC has lost its chemistry, a viewpoint that stuns Thunder coach Scott Brooks.
“The only people who say that are the people who were never in our locker room,” Brooks said. “It's weird how they can say we don't have chemistry now.”
It took just one game for this viewpoint to gain momentum when the Thunder dropped its season opener, 86-84, at San Antonio on a last-second 21-foot game-winner from Tony Parker.
“One thing about our guys, they have a lot of respect for what they do,” Brooks said. “They love what they do and they love doing it with the guys that they're with, and that hasn't changed. We aren't holding any special meetings to try to recapture the chemistry that we've had. We've always had it. We always will have it with the group of guys that we have.”
Brooks also takes exception to the constant criticism of point guard Russell Westbrook, who shot just 6 for 21 from the floor against the Spurs, committed six turnovers and was supposed to be defending Parker in the final sequence.
Following a 106-92 victory over Portland on Friday night at Chesapeake Energy Arena, Brooks began his postgame interview session with a stern, “Well it's a good thing I stuck with Russell, huh?”
Westbrook had a game-high 32 points against the Blazers, shooting 13 for 24 from the field, while also adding six assists, five rebounds and just one turnover.
“I thought Russell was really good controlling the game,” Brooks said. “He did a great job of just setting us up when we needed scores.”
Connecticut rookie Jeremy Lamb, acquired in the Houston trade along with Martin, entered for the first time in his pro career with 1:08 remaining and drained a 27-footer with 19.5 seconds left.
“Was it that deep?” Lamb asked, eyebrows raised. “Felt good. Just got in and tried to play hard. Russ yelled at me, ‘Play hard,' so I did.”
Baylor rookie Perry Jones III also made his pro debut and had two points, two rebounds and one assist in 5:15 of playing time.
Thunder starting center Kendrick Perkins sprained his left ankle with 4:45 left in the game and is listed as day-to-day. … The Thunder snapped a five-game losing streak, dating back to last year's NBA Finals. … In attendance were New England Patriots receiver and former Heritage Hall standout Wes Welker, plus former Oklahoma guard Brent Price. … After draining a 19-footer to open the season at San Antonio, Serge Ibaka hit just 2 of his next 13 attempts, which included a missed alley-oop and an offensive goaltending against the Blazers. A career .539 shooter, Ibaka is shooting .278 (5 for 18) after two games. … Last season, Portland forward LaMarcus Aldridge averaged 26.0 points and 7.0 rebounds against OKC. On Friday, he took 22 shots (making eight) to finish with 22 points. He also had 15 rebounds. … After getting outscored 18-6 in fast break points at San Antonio, the Thunder outscored the Blazers 23-6 on the break and by a 44-24 count in the paint.
Portland guard Wesley Matthews when asked if anything good came out of Friday's loss: “The coaches will find some good out of it. As a player, you don't like to lose, but the beauty of the NBA is that we got another one tomorrow.”
The Blazers play at Houston on Saturday night against Harden and his 41.0 scoring average.