Behind what was essentially a Russell Westbrook triple double, the OKC Thunder won the season opener over an energized Sixer team on Wednesday night in Philly. It didn’t come easy though as the Thunder found themselves trailing by six entering the fourth period on Joel Embiid Night before a playoff-like crowd on the road. But behind Westbrook, Enes Kanter, and others the Thunder won the fourth period by a 34-22 count in claiming their first win in the post Kevin Durant era in Oklahoma City.
Any road win is a good one in the NBA, but this win was essential as the Thunder overcame Joel Embiid’s professional debut and a raccous crowd to get this season on the right first step without Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka.
For the most part I thought OKC was pretty good on the night. Russell Westbrook was superb. He basically tripled doubled at 32,12,9. His court management was exactly what this young team will need through the course of the season. He steered his team, but didn’t bully his usage to an overbearing extent. He was just about right in getting other players involved.
Steven Adams scored 16 points while grabbing 5 rebounds, but more importantly he was involved offensively to the point where he attempted 16 shots. Adams was solid, but you almost feel certain his level will amp up even higher in coming games.
Victor Oladipo struggled–no way around it. Oladipo went 4-16 from the field and was 0-5 from three point range. He finished with 10 points and did redeem himself in the fourth period with two big buckets as the Thunder rallied to win the game.
Enes Kanter was excellent in the fourth period. He had a solid night going for 17 points and 12 rebounds in 24 minutes of play.
Domas Sabonis actually started the game, thus becoming the first ever Thunder player to start as a rookie. He looked a bit nervous initially, but settled in and gave Billy Donovan solid minutes. Sabonis will become a core player as time moves along.
Ersan Ilyasova was good. He hit two big threes, had ten points overall, drew two charges, and was decent defensively. I liked what I saw from him as he fit into the Westbrook flow and will give Donovan two solid stretch four options.
Andre Roberson didn’t do much for me. He scored one point, didn’t attempt a three, and missed on several opportunities around the basket. But scoring isn’t Roberson’s thing so I won’t dwell on it. If he scores more than six points in a game it’s a bonus.
Alex Abrines played 13 minutes and hit a big three in the fourth period. Kyle Singler hit his first three then missed his next four, but his hair looks better this season. Backup point guard Semaj Christon played and was decent from my perspective. In all ten players saw the floor for the Thunder on opening night.
I’d give the Thunder a B on their report card. I’d have Westbrook, Kanter, and Adams as my three stars of the game in that order. I was impressed with Sabonis and Ilyasova as stretch fours, and okay with Christon as the backup point guard. Abrines was about what I expected. Oladipo had a tough shooting night. His integration alongside Westbrook has to become smoother for the Thunder to become a top four team in the West.
But anytime a young team can go on the road and win in a playoff like atmosphere you take it as a positive, an incremental step forward, and then get ready to host Phoenix on Friday night in the season home opener.