OKC 112 – San Antonio 106

On a night when Kevin Durant made his return and looked mortal going 6-19 from the field, the OKC Thunder hung in against the San Antonio Spurs winning Billy Donovan’s debut game as an NBA coach. Russell Westbrook led the Thunder scoring 33 points and dishing out 10 assists, but on this night it was what other Thunder players did coming down the stretch which enabled the Thunder to make enough of the winning plays to claim Donovan’s opening game.

It wasn’t pretty at times, but when the Thunder had to dig in during the last six minutes of the game—they did, and it wasn’t just Westbrook and Durant. On the night, OKC’s bench produced 39 points and was pivotal in this season opening win. Call it cliché if you will, but it was a team win. Ten players played for OKC on the night and all contributed in some form or fashion on the night.

Much maligned Dion Waiters hit several key baskets down the stretch and led the Thunder at +15. Anthony Morrow was 3-6 from beyond the arc. Steven Adams had a key shot deflection at a critical moment. DJ Augustin wasn’t great, but was good enough. Enes Kanter did what should be his norm coming off the bench coupling 15 points with 16 rebounds. Serge Ibaka did his part defensively as Lamarcus Aldridge  was miserable shooting from the field going 4-12 and looking awkward at times in the Spurs offensive sets.

Tony Parker was 5-11 on the night in 26 minutes for ten points and was no match physically for Westbrook. Kawhi Leonard was superb with a career high 32 points, 8 rebounds, 3 steals and 2 blocked shots.

Donovan was what I thought fairly astute in distributing minutes at the shooting guard position. Waiters played 21 minutes, Morrow 22 minutes, and Andre Roberson  17 minutes. Plus, I give Donovan an A grade for his press conference demeanor—clearly a players’ coach.

OKC was 21-22 from the free throw line. Won the boards 45-36. Nineteen turnovers are too many, but I’m sure Donovan will be preaching tomorrow on taking better care of the ball.

All in all, a very good night for the OKC Thunder. Won the game, covered the Vegas spread, and won the opener over an iconic coach on a night when Kevin Durant had an off night.




Season Opener Preview vs. San Antonio Spurs

When you think about it, this is really the first time since OKC beat the Clippers two seasons ago to advance to the Western Conference Finals in which they appear to be healthy as a team. Both teams are coming off extremely disappointing seasons. The Thunder finished 45-37 amid a plethora of injuries failing to make the playoffs for the first time since the team’s first season in OKC,  while the Spurs lost on the last night of the regular season in New Orleans to tumble in the seeding order. Without home court advantage, the Spurs fell in Game 7 of the first round to the Clippers.

OKC appears perched for a return to elite status with the major question mark being who will evolve as the starting shooting guard as Billy Donovan feels his way with this team. Otherwise–OKC is loaded with overall roster talent, size, depth and one would think a reason to be extremely motivated. And of course, those two guys—Durant and Westbrook.

Spurs come in with two new faces in LaMarcus Aldridge and David West.  Aldridge an All-Star caliber power forward who can score the ball, West a veteran big who gave up $11 million in pay this season to play for the Spurs for $1.4 million.

For me…the major question for the Spurs is Tony Parker. He enters his 15th season. Does he have enough left in the tank to stay with the elite point guards in the West like Curry, Westbrook, Paul and Conley? The secondary question would be if Aldridge’s presence slows the ball movement which has been the cornerstone of the Spurs’ offense.

A good matchup to open the Billy Donovan era in OKC.





Random Thoughts

Just a few random thoughts on this blog a day before the season opener. This will be a seasonal blog only. That is, it will begin about a week before the season and go dormant a few days after the Thunder play their last game in post season. Which of course we all hope occurs sometime in June so we can all talk about where we were specifically during the parade in Bricktown. Which would mean OKC would have to win four series and sixteen games in post season against three very tough teams from the West and then four games from Team Lebron. So there’s that.

I’ve never been a GM. Never been a coach. Never been a scout. So there’s no reason to get on the internet and try to write in the voice of something I’m not. I’m a fan. A passionate fan, but one who will be objective, tough and honest. But most of all… fair. Fair to the players, fair to the coaches, fair to Sam Presti and respectful of the opponent. Not a homer, but fair.

My format on here will be simple. There will be no message board because I’m not into babysitting. A very light game preview the morning of the game. Very light. Like maybe two paragraphs at the most. A game recap following the game. Then a segment the morning after the game called  …The Last Word. Humans get so caught up in the moment of winning and losing it’s sometimes better to sleep on a game to make more rational, pragmatic observations.

I honestly have no idea how many Thunder blogs currently exist. I have no control over any of that. But at the end of the day I want this blog to be a place where people can get an intelligent, quick read on the games, the season, and the overall journey of this Oklahoma City Thunder season. There has never been a more compelling preset to a Thunder season than the one which begins tomorrow night. Durant’s foot. Durant’s impending free agency. Billy Donovan hoping to make a smooth transition to the NBA level of coaching. Durant and Westbrook possibly winning their first rings in their ninth and eighth pro seasons respectively.

LeBron won his first ring in his ninth pro season beating Oklahoma City in the Finals. Maybe the basketball gods, just maybe, have aligned it so Kevin Durant will win his first ring in his ninth season in June against Team LeBron. Hope is a beautiful thing. We all hope.

Enjoy the season and never forget we have two generational players playing in our city. Embrace the season and never take a moment for granted. I won’t.

Mike Jackson






Daily Thunder Western Conference Regular Season Seeding Contest

One of my favorite times of the sporting calendar–filling out my bracket sheet for the DT Western Conference Regular Season Seeding Contest. I’ve come to look forward to it as much as filling out my NCAA Tournament bracket for March Madness. I love the fact you have to select all fifteen teams 1-15 as far as how they will finish after the 82 game marathon NBA regular season schedule. It’s usually all decided on the final night of the season. Some tough calls this season in the even more rugged Western Conference, but here goes.

1  Golden State Warriors                   9   Utah Jazz

2  San Antonio Spurs                         10  Sacramento Kings

3  Oklahoma City Thunder               11  Phoenix Suns

4  Houston Rockets                             12  Portland Trailblazers

5  LA Clippers                                       13  Denver Nuggets

6  Memphis Grizzlies                          14  Minnesota Timberwolves

7  New Orleans Pelicans                     15 LA Lakers

8  Dallas Mavericks



Three NBA basketball seasons have come and gone since OKC beat the San Antonio Spurs to advance to the NBA Finals against LeBron James and the Miami Heat. After losing Game 1 in OKC, the more veteran Heat won four straight games to claim Lebron James’ first NBA championship in his 9th season in the league. Mike Miller raining threes in the clinching Game 5 versus OKC is forever etched in our minds.  Miami and San Antonio would advance to the next two NBA championships with each winning another NBA trophy. Golden State would beat Lebron’s Cleveland Cavaliers in the third season. Oklahoma City has yet to advance out of the West since.

James Harden was traded to the Houston Rockets in the October following the Finals and the trio of Durant, Westbrook and Harden would never have a chance to defend their Western Conference Championship. Many still debate the trade and what would have happened if Harden remained in Oklahoma City. It’s hard to completely evaluate the trade given that in each of the following two seasons the Thunder showed flashes of brilliance which were dimmed by Westbrook’s knee injury via Patrick Beverly against the Houston Rockets. OKC would advance in six games versus the Rockets, but be eliminated the next round against Memphis. The second post season without Harden dimmed when Serge Ibaka’s leg injury altered the Western Conference Finals against the San Antonio Spurs in an eventual six game series loss.

Season three post Harden offered no such drama. In essence, it was a season ended before it ever began with a sequence of injuries to almost every member of the team at one time or another. Instead of seeing Durant, Westbrook and Ibaka carry the team—it became a season in which players named Thomas, Telfair and Ish Smith played meaningful minutes while Kevin Durant missed fifty-five games. OKC never got healthy, plus the Reggie Jackson situation became a distraction and he was eventually traded to Detroit just before the trade deadline. Repeat…. Kevin Durant missed fifty-five games and Serge Ibaka sat the back end of the season as well. In a capsule—it was a nightmare of a season.

Westbrook was outstanding, but not enough as OKC finished tied with New Orleans for 8th in the West and did not make the playoffs due to the head to head tiebreaker. Golden State would eventually defeat LeBron’s Cleveland Cavs team to claim the NBA Championship. Scott Brooks would be fired. Florida coach Billy Donovan would be hired and an impressive coaching staff assembled.

With a healthy Durant, Westbrook and Ibaka once again (knock on wood three times)—OKC appears to be perched on the cusp of being elite once again as this season nears its beginning. Billy Donovan opens his first season as an NBA coach. Enes Kanter has been resigned. Dion Waiters has lost weight and hopefully  the bad shot selection. Anthony Morrow is as good as any three point specialist in the league. Mitch McGary is instant energy off the bench. Steven Adams should be better this season when surrounded by better players on a nightly basis. OKC’s bench should be able to produce offensively. Andre Roberson starting as the shooting guard is still a work in progress…. only time and the health of the Big Three will determine if this works.

There is optimism with heavy expectations added to the mix as OKC attempts to get back to the NBA Finals. Anything less than a Western Conference Finals appearance would be viewed as a failed season. It seems like three NBA seasons have come and gone in the blink of an eye since the Finals appearance. Durant enters his ninth pro season, Westbrook his eighth. They’re not kids anymore. The innocence of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, James Harden and Jeff Green seems likes a lifetime ago. The NBA world watches. It should be a compelling journey either way it goes.