The first preseason game for the Oklahoma City Thunder maybe didn’t end the way most Thunder fans might’ve wished, but an impressive effort and the first glance at the new talent definitely overshadowed that. Oklahoma City dropped their opening preseason game 104-97 to the Houston Rockets.
You could feel the buzz circulating through Tulsa’s BOK Center, full of fans that don’t get the luxury of watching NBA basketball in person on a weekly basis. Immediately out of the gate, the fans got what they wanted.
Once Carmelo Anthony scored the first basket of the preseason and followed it up with his signature three fingers to the head after a three-point shot, it finally hit home that he was really a member of this small-market team. He continued hitting shots too and ended up scoring the first 10 points of the half, before cooling off a little early in the second quarter.
Houston started hot as well, though, picking up where they left off last season by shooting a ton of three-pointers and unlike their final game of the Western Conference Semifinals, they were knocking them down. Hitting five first-quarter threes, it was clear that this team could still shoot the ball like last season but at the same time, Oklahoma City was keeping up with them, even without their leader, Russell Westbrook. They trailed 27-25 after one and shot the three more effectively than Houston, connecting on three-of-six.
In the second quarter, the narrative pretty much remained true. The Rockets were still hoisting up 22-footers and making them, netting 7-of-14. The Thunder were shooting considerably less and stalled a tad bit in efficiency by only successfully hitting 2-of-7 of theirs. However, they still weren’t out of the game by any stretch, only trailing 59-52 at halftime.
In addition, Houston played their normal eight-man rotation for the exception of Nene, so the quality of players was clearly in the Rockets favor.
It was the second half where the Rockets started to get in control of this game. Head coach Mike D’Antoni played his starters through the third quarter and that’s ultimately why Houston won the game. Anthony didn’t see any playing time after halftime and George only saw the court for five minutes.
It wasn’t all bad for OKC in the second half, though. Players like Terrance Ferguson, Jerami Grant, Daniel Hamilton and Josh Heustis really showed promise. Those four combined for 40 points. That was overshadowed by the Houston’s A-Team which is clearly a mismatch.
OKC entered the fourth quarter down 90-72 and it was clear the Rockets would run out of Tulsa with another victory over the Thunder, although it was just a preseason game, you couldn’t tell them that. But in the fourth quarter, D’Antoni pulled his starters and put in five players that saw no action during the game and OKC came back to make the game interested, cutting the Houston lead down to five at one point, before ultimately losing by seven.
This was the first preseason game so there’s not much to take from it, other than the development of young players and the visual evidence that Carmelo hasn’t lost it after his 14th season. He finished with 19 points on 7-of-13 shooting. George never got into a rhythm but still managed to score 15 points, 5 rebounds, one steal and one block on 6-of-13 shooting.
OKC will host the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday night, back in Oklahoma City at the Chesapeake Energy Arena, and will also play Melbourne on Sunday at home.