Two families of Oklahoma National Guardsmen deployed to Afghanistan were surprised at halftime when the soldiers walked onto the court during a ceremony honoring families who support loved ones serving in the military.
The Thunder provided limousine service to the families of Sgt. Robert Nixon and Jose Dozal of the 45th Infantry, transporting them from Midwest City, Oklahoma City and Ardmore. The families were asked to attend and represent the thousands of families who support the men and women of the military, particularly the National Guard. More than 3,000 Oklahoma National Guard troops are deployed to Afghanistan and Kuwait.
The families watched holiday video greetings from their guardsmen, who later walked out to surprise their families.
They watched the second half from one of the Thunder's Terrace Suites, and each guardsman was given a personalized Thunder jersey with No. 45.
The Colcord Hotel provided rooms on Christmas Eve for each family and to spend Christmas night following the game.
IN THE HOUSE
NBA commissioner David Stern was in attendance but not introduced. Stern left with 4:53 remaining and the Thunder leading 87-72. He flew back to Colorado, where his family spent the holidays. Stern attended the Heat-Mavericks game in Dallas earlier in the day.
Midwest City High School product and Los Angeles Dodgers All-Star Matt Kemp sat in the front row, was introduced during a first-quarter timeout and presented a No. 27 Thunder jersey.
Also in attendance were PGA touring pro Scott Verplank and OU women's basketball coach Sherri Coale.
The Thunder left after the game and flew to Minnesota for Monday night's game against the Timberwolves, who will make their debut under new coach Rick Adelman and heralded point guard Ricky Rubio. Minnesota finished 17-65 last season and ended with 15 straight losses.
“He (Adelman) wins wherever he goes and they're going to be prepared,” Brooks said. “(Kevin) Love is an All-Star … they have some exciting players. We have to match their first-game intensity and we're looking forward to it.”
The Thunder plays at Memphis on Wednesday and returns home for games against Dallas on Thursday and Phoenix on New Year's Eve.
Dwight Howard was 17 for 20 from the free-throw line last year at OKC. On Sunday, he finished 3 for 8. … Thunder guard Russell Westbrook wore white leg stockings. … With less than two minutes left in the game, Thunder All-Star Kevin Durant hit the floor hard going for an offensive rebound. He got up slowly, was slightly hobbled with an injured left knee and finished the game. … James Harden's first field goal didn't come until 4.6 seconds remained in the first half off an alley-oop pass from Westbrook. Until that moment, Harden was 9 for 9 from the free-throw line, with four rebounds and three assists.
“Well, no disrespect to the legend, but I felt like Shaq (Shaquille O'Neal) out there tonight.” – Durant, after going 6 for 11 at the free-throw line.