The Thunder got a major scare late in Monday's win over Boston. But when forward Serge Ibaka was diagnosed with just a sprained left ankle, the entire organization could sigh in relief.
For a while, though, it appeared as if Ibaka sustained a major injury when he collided with a driving Celtics player and collapsed to the floor in pain. Ibaka rolled around in agony for a moment before being helped off the court without putting pressure on his left foot. He walked to the locker room under his own power and returned to the bench a short moment with his left shoe off and had his ankle wrapped in ice. Ibaka didn't return to the game.
A team spokesman said Ibaka is day-to-day.
Before the injury, Ibaka displayed his continued development from the moment he checked into the game for the first time off the bench. He rebounded well with five, blocked three shots and scored with ease from in close on low-post moves when he was fed the ball on two occasions.
Defense shines in Thunder's debut
After a dismal first half of defense, the Thunder resorted to the team that it was expected to be coming into this week's five-game slate. Oklahoma City held the Celtics to 12 fourth-quarter points and used a defensive mindset to come back from a one-time 21 point hole.
“We didn't come out and defend anybody in the first half. That was pretty plain and obvious,” said Thunder summer league coach Brian Keefe. “That's what we're built on. The coaching staff challenged them at halftime to pick up the defensive intensity. We slowly did that, especially in the fourth quarter.”
Mullens making big improvements
The team has raved about his development.
And in his first chance to show what all the fuss was about, second-year center Byron Mullens didn't disappoint. Mullens finished with a game-high 24 points on 6-for-12 shooting with seven rebounds and two steals in 33 minutes Monday. Despite the fair warning from team officials, Mullens still managed to surprise.
He credited his performance to being more aggressive. Mullens said he's already added 15 pounds of muscle this off-season and is more willing to play in the post rather than look to shoot from outside so frequently. Mullens also is now understanding how much easier scoring can be when he rolls to the basket off pick-and-rolls rather than popping and settling for jump shots.
“This game right here really showed me that rolling actually really worked for me,” Mullens said. “And I'm going to do it a lot more.”
A byproduct for Mullens on Monday was 15 free throw attempts, 12 of which he made.
Something in the water?
James Harden arrived in Orlando sporting a Mohawk hairstyle. His teammate, Russell Westbrook, is rocking the same look this summer. Coincidence, seeing as how both are Los Angeles guys?
“I don't know,” Harden said. “That's our L.A. swag.”
Forward Nick Collison was in attendance Monday. Collison, who recently had surgery on his knee, traveled to Orlando to rehab with the team's medical staff ... In the team's first game, Keefe went with a starting lineup of Eric Maynor, Kyle Weaver, Harden, Mullens and D.J. White. Four of them scored at least 13 points. Weaver had seven points with four rebounds and two blocks ... Former Oklahoma State guard Obi Muonelo, playing with Philadelphia, went scoreless in 7 1/2 minutes Monday. He pulled down two rebounds.