Thunder Dominates Orlando In Season Opener


Sunday, December 25th 2011, 11:17 pm
By: News 9


Grant Belcher, News9.com

OKLAHOMA CITY – It's hard to count exactly how many presents the OKC Thunder gave their fans in a 97-89 win against the Magic on Christmas Day.

They say defense wins championships, and the Thunder held the Magic to 37 percent shooting, not to mention just 11 points from Dwight Howard.

Kevin Durant didn't skip a beat during the lockout. After playing in various pickup games (of all sports) during the offseason, Durant was a cool 11-of-19 for 30 points to go with six assists and five boards.

But most importantly, Oklahoma City started off the season on a high note, moving to an easy 1-0 against a quality opponent in a season with monumental expectations.

The Thunder trailed 18-11 before going on a 16-4 run, half of which came from the starters and half came from the second unit.

OKC never trailed again and led by as many as 22 points before letting Orlando cut the lead down a little bit in garbage time.

Several big questions were answered as Oklahoma City took the court for the first time, including James Harden's sixth man status.

Brooks will apparently stick with Thabo Sefolosha in the starting lineup this season, allowing Harden to come off the bench and lead the second unit offensively.

Stats and production between the two, however, is a different story. James Harden registered 29 minutes and scored 19 points with six boards. Sefolosha played 19 minutes and scored eight points to go along with his ever-present impact defensively.

Another big question was the new effectiveness of a healthy, slimmer Kendrick Perkins. Though Perkins' stats weren't jaw-dropping (six points, four boards), a matchup against the Magic doesn't favor stats for a big man. Perkins wasn't expected to contribute big numbers on the offensive end considering he had a three-time reigning defensive player of the year on him.

Despite Perkins' early foul trouble, he did play a large part in holding Howard to his 11 points on 4-of-12 shooting, reminiscent of Perkins' days on the championship Celtics.

As a team, the Thunder shot 47 percent and a remarkable 53 percent from 3-point range.

Russell Westbrook was the only other OKC player in double digits with 14 to go with six assists, but he also had seven turnovers to start the season. Ryan Anderson led Orlando with 25 points.

With the win, Oklahoma City was the only Western Conference team to pick up a win against the Eastern Conference on opening day. Both the Lakers and Mavericks stumbled in their opening games against the Bulls and Heat.

The win kicks off what will likely be considered the most fast and furious season in NBA history, with 65 more games to play in fewer than 120 days.

The Thunder will waste no time in that regard, traveling to Minnesota to take on the Timberwolves Monday night at 7 p.m.