Thunder Falls To Portland In Season Opener

Thursday, October 30th 2014, 1:35 am
By: News 9

Cold reality has come to Oklahoma City.

The luck the Thunder has enjoyed for the past five years ran out when Kevin Durant went down for at least a month with a Jones fracture, but it was compounded with Anthony Morrow's injury and more so with the injuries to Reggie Jackson and Jeremy Lamb on Monday.

Yet the Thunder refused to just fold up the tent and settle for a 0-2 record to start the season. Oklahoma City gave Portland all it wanted Wednesday night in the season opener before falling to the Trail Blazers, 106-89.

It seemed impossible the Thunder's nine-man roster of Russell Westbrook, Serge Ibaka and company would be able to keep up with a very good Portland team, but there was the Thunder, leading after the first three quarters and not falling behind for good until a Wesley Matthews 3-pointer with 11:15 remaining.

Westbrook was magnificent until he ran out of gas late in the fourth quarter. But even in a loss, it was a win for the short-handed Thunder, as Westbrook played just 33 minutes and Ibaka just 29 in the first game of a back-to-back.

With the brunt of the scoring falling on his shoulders, Westbrook took over early, scoring 11 in the first quarter, 26 in the first half and finished with 38 points, six assists and just two turnovers. He played under control throughout the night and did a great job of looking for teammates and setting them up for easy baskets.

If the Westbrook we saw on Wednesday night will be the one that carries the Thunder through the first month or two without Durant, OKC will be just fine. The Thunder won't win every game, but it will probably win all the games they should and perhaps steal one or two it shouldn't along the way.

Unfortunately, the Thunder need more from Ibaka if that's going to happen. Ibaka struggled with foul trouble much of the night which prevented him from getting into any sort of rhythm offensively. He finished with just 10 points and eight rebounds and had five turnovers.

Wednesday provided the first of two opportunities for the OKC role players to assert themselves and show they have what it takes to get consistent minutes once the team returns to full health. Lance Thomas, who made the roster as the 15th player on the team, certainly made the most of his opportunity. Thomas provided a great boost of energy in the first quarter, scoring 10 points on 5-of-5 shooting. He finished with 14 points and displayed an energy the Thunder can use off the bench down the road.

Perry Jones most definitely did not show any reason for coach Scott Brooks to give him consistent minutes this year. Jones struggled all night on both ends of the court. He was 1-of-9 from the field and finished with three points. He also consistently got turned around and lost his man on the defensive end which led to several easy baskets for Portland.

Sebastian Telfair also struggled offensively, going just 1-of-9 from the field, 0-of-5 from 3-point range. He wasn't afraid to shoot the ball, but that doesn't do a lot of good if the shots aren't falling.

The Thunder held a 77-75 lead after three quarters, but the Blazers got things going from 3-point range after a terrible 2-of-15 showing in the first half. Portland went 9-of-13 from deep in the second half, including 6-of-7 in the fourth quarter that put the game away.

Portland's 3-point barrage highlighted the Thunder's lack of 3-point shooters during this injury-riddled start to the season. OKC was just 2-of-16 from deep on Wednesday night, with Westbrook and Ibaka picking up the only two makes.

Things won't get any easier for OKC as they take on the Los Angeles Clippers Thursday night, but it will most likely not be in this plight for long. Jackson and Lamb will hopefully return by Saturday's home opener against Denver, but at the very least, aren't expected to miss significant time.

Regardless of how ugly things may seem in this first month of the season, the Thunder isn't just going to take its beating and wait on things to get better. They're going to fight and that just might be enough to keep the ship afloat for the time being.