A lot of new faces made their debut for the Thunder on Saturday night, but it was a familiar one who made the difference.
Playing without Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook torched everyone in his path for 33 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds as Oklahoma City took home a hard-fought 110-103 victory in the franchise's first-ever road game against the Charlotte Hornets.
Westbrook's dominance is becoming less and less surprising. Russ is averaging 31.8 points per game on a whopping 48 percent shooting over the Thunder's past eight.
“Russell's a triple-double any given night,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. “He just goes out there and competes and he does everything on the floor. We kinda expected that.”
While Westbrook led the charge, those new faces made a terrific first impression. Enes Kanter, starting in the place of the injured Steven Adams, put up a double-double with 10 points on a modest 4-of-9 shooting and 13 rebounds. He also played solid defense on his former Utah Jazz teammate, Al Jefferson. The Hornets' second-leading scorer knocked in 20 but it took him 18 shots to get there.
D.J. Augustin and Kyle Singler, both acquired from the Detroit Pistons, each drained a pair of 3-pointers. Augustin scored 12 points while Singler, who started in place of Durant, finished with six.
Brooks was impressed after getting his first look at OKC's new additions.
“It's challenging the first night out,” Brooks said. “There's a lot of things that we wanted to do that they didn't know yet, but I'm looking forward to getting guys in as quickly as we can. Overall, they had one shootaround, I thought they played outstanding.”
With all of the injuries and the moving parts, Oklahoma City, perhaps more so than ever, realized the value of Westbrook's consistency.
“Russell's been a leader for many, many years,” Brooks said. “He understands the situation that we're in. He understands that we have a lot of new guys so his communicating on the court, during timeouts, halftime…it was great. He's a leader, and guys listen to him.”
Kanter couldn't agree more.
“I'm really thankful, Russ helped me a lot,” the 22-year-old Turk explained. “Especially this was my first game, I didn't know the whole sets, I didn't know all the plays…on the court, off the court, he really helped me.”
Charlotte was shorthanded as well, playing without top scorer Kemba Walker. Newly-acquired Mo Williams helped to make up for that with 24 points and 12 assists. Former Kentucky star Michael Kidd-Gilchrist scored a season-high 20 for the Hornets while Cody Zeller added 13.
The Thunder pounded the glass and outrebounded Charlotte 59-41. Serge Ibaka, Mitch McGary and Kanter all finished with double-figure rebounds. Ibaka scored 16 points to go with 12 boards and McGary scored nine with his 10 rebounds.
Oklahoma City improves to a season-best five games above the .500 mark at 30-25. The Thunder hosts the imploding Denver Nuggets (20-34) on Sunday night. Denver has lost 15 of its last 17 games.