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Thunder Thoughts: Durant Returns As Thunder Improve To 1-0

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What a game it was for the Thunder (1-0) in its first game of the season as they beat the Spurs 112-106 inside of Chesapeake Energy Arena. Here are some thoughts about the Thunder win.

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-Billy Donovan opted not to change anything up from Scott Brook’s starting lineup by playing Andre Roberson at shooting guard and Steven Adams at center. Overall the decision seemed to be a good one—for this game at least. Roberson played suffocating defense on Danny Green throughout the night, while Adams was a solid defensive presence in the middle for the Thunder. To the surprise of everyone, Roberson scored the first points of the game. He intercepted the opening tip and was able to convert a contested layup to give OKC its first points of the season.

-Kevin Durant looked eager to play, especially early on. For the first part of the opening frame it was Durant who was the aggressor and definitely took the lead role on offense. As the quarter went on Russell Westbrook started to carry the offensive load. With both superstars back and healthy, it’s going to be tough to slow down the Thunder. Overall the Thunder shot 52 percent from the field in the first quarter.

-Enes Kanter was worth the money. The Turkish big man came off the bench in this Thunder win, but he definitely made a major impact on the game. Kanter looked even better on the offensive end of the floor, totaling 15 points and a whopping 16 rebounds. He’s been known as a defensive liability in the past, but Kanter looked somewhat improved on that end of the floor as well.

-There was a three minute stretch in both the second and third quarters where the Thunder went cold from the field. The offensive droughts weren’t drastic, but it definitely reminded Thunder fans of the previous problems the team encountered with Scott Brooks in charge. There were too many isolation plays with guys standing around watching. I expect that to change moving forward as Billy Donovan continues to adjust to the NBA game.

-Westbrook attempted a couple of floaters in the first half that raised a few eyebrows. The tenacious point guard is known for his fearlessness when attacking the basket, so it was weird to see him release before getting all the way to the rim.

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-This was a phenomenal basketball game throughout and was a great test for the Thunder to start the year. With a new coach, we got to see new strategy down the stretch of games from Donovan. The first year coach chose to insert Steven Adams into the game for the final stretch of the game as opposed to leaving Kanter on the floor. Kanter was by far the better player throughout the game, but clearly Donovan wanted to make sure the defensive side of the ball was locked up since he had Durant and Westbrook to carry the offensive load. The move worked out in the Thunder’s favor as Adams was able to get a piece of Danny Green’s game-tying three point attempt in the game’s final seconds. If Kanter were in the game, who knows how he would’ve reacted defensively on the switch.

-Speaking of the final stretch of the game, Dion Waiters was also a part of that picture. In fact, Waiters made two clutch jumpers on back-to-back possessions with less than two minutes left in the game. Durant and Westbrook are normally the only two players to touch the ball in those clutch moments, so it appears the Thunder team has more confidence in Waiters than Thunder fans do.   

-The clutch play of the game came with less than a minute left when Durant missed a three pointer that would’ve extended the Thunder’s lead to five. The miss was tipped to Westbrook who was wide open in front of the OKC bench.  Westbrook sank the three nothing but net and the home crowd exploded.    

-It was great to see the stars shine. Durant finished with 22 points and six rebounds, while Westbrook added 33 points and 10 assists. Kanter put up his usual double-double, while D.J. Augustin, Anthony Morrow and Waiters each had eight points off the bench. Serge Ibaka was a bit disappointing on the offensive end with only ten points and five rebounds.

-Thunder plays the Magic in Orlando on Friday at 6 p.m.

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