Last night, in the first game of the season the Oklahoma City Thunder lost in Utah 95-100.
There was a lot of curiosity about this team heading into the 2019/20 season, and last night we got a glimpse of what this year will probably be for the Thunder. A mix of veteran players and young guns, who will be ready to fight night in and night out, but at the same time will commit mistakes that will cost a few games.Considering all the draft picks Presti has in his hands, losing won’t be necessarily a bad outcome.
Here are the five facts about last night’s loss in Utah:
SGA SHOWS POTENTIAL
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is very good. There was a lot of excitement for the second-year player, and last night he showed why. SGA finished the game with twenty-six points (second-most in point scored in a Thunder debut), two rebounds, one assist, and one steal. He didn’t shoot the ball particularly well, 10-23 from the floor, 3-7 from behind the arc, and 3-6 from the FT line. However, he showed that he can score in multiple ways, and as he gets stronger, he will get even better around the rim. Shai didn’t have to manage much the point guard position because Chris Paul and Dennis Schröder took over that duty, therefore the low assist number. It’s just one game, but SGA might be the next big star in Oklahoma City
Billy Donovan started the game with what everyone expected to be the starting five: Chris Paul, SGA, Terrence Ferguson, Danilo Gallinari, Steven Adams. What was more interesting to observe would have been the rotations, and there were a couple of surprises. First of all, Bazley and Diallo played a lot of minutes, nineteen for Darius and twenty-three for Hami. Of the two players, Diallo played a better game. He was solid on both ends of the floor, and obviously better suited to the NBA speed than Bazley.
Another interesting point is Noel’s minutes: only five minutes for the backup center. However, this might be just a matchup situation where Donovan decided to go small with Muscala to take Gobert out of the paint.
Last note on the rotations: Dennis Schröder played too many minutes while being ineffective on both ends of the floor.
This will be an important key for Oklahoma City this season. The Thunder always had one or two superstars on the roster ready to have the ball in their hand and to take isolation shots. This year is different, and the first game already showed this to us. It is uncertain who’s gonna take the shot, or how the offense will run. Against the Jazz, the Thunder moved the ball, and what’s more important, they moved without the ball. It is obviously not easy to play the first game with a lot of new faces against one of the best defensive teams in the NBA, but OKC kept on playing its way, and almost hit the upset in Utah.
This team will be a surprise in every single game. Last night, the Thunder, played a very intensive one on the defensive end. This offseason the Jazz added a couple of great offensive options such as Conley and Bogdanovic, but OKC was able to hold them to a combined twenty-one points. Sure, Bogdanovic rolled his ankle and that might have an impact, and Conley might have had a night off with shooting, but overall the Thunder kept their focus on defense for most of the game. This is encouraging.
It might definitely take some time for OKC’s fans to cheer and to get adjusted to Chris Paul on their team. However, if he plays the way he did in Utah, well then, the love and appreciation will come very quickly. CP3 played a very complete game on both ends of the floor: he controlled the pace on offense without forcing a shot or a pass, while on defense he played with effort. Paul finished with twenty-two points (7-15 FG, 4-7 3PT, 4-4 FT), eight rebounds, three assists, one steal, and only one turnover.