As advertised, this season, the Oklahoma City Thunder aren’t expected to win that many games. Instead, this season is about individual growth, game-by-game. Seeing the new Thunder acquisitions, as well as Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Darius Bazley, and Luguentz Dort grow and develop each game will be considered wins for the Thunder.
Since this season’s expectations have been explained, we’re starting a new series called “Win the Day.” The title is pretty self-explanatory. Did the Thunder win the day? Did they get at least one percent better? That’s what’s important this season.
In OKC’s opening night game, they defeated the Charlotte Hornets 109-107 after displaying the ability to adjust and overcome, actually winning the game on the back of their defense, which stepped up in the third quarter.
Darius Bazley: 15 points, 10 rebounds, two blocks.
Baze couldn’t find his shot at all, shooting 1-of-4 from three, but still found a way to get his offensive game going, hitting 6-of-7 shots that weren’t threes. His ability to have a hand in multiple areas of the game, on both ends of the court, is what makes him such an intriguing young player.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander: 24 points, nine assists, seven rebounds.
Shai seemed to have a quiet game but stuffed the stat sheet. His ability to be the featured point guard for the Thunder has been questioned, but at least for the first game of the season, showed that he’s capable of being that. Shai’s poise, even-keeled demeanor on the court, and newfound core strength will serve him well this season.
George Hill: 21 points, four rebounds, three assists.
George Hill is coming from Milwaukee, a team that held the best regular-season record in the NBA last year. Oklahoma City lost their veteran leader Chris Paul this offseason, and the question has been whether or not OKC could replicate CP3’s leadership and production.
While Paul may be the best pure leader in the NBA, George Hill showed that he could be this team’s leader (along with Al Horford) while also putting up big numbers. He was OKC’s leading scorer.
The reason why the Thunder won this game was the third quarter. Formerly, the third quarter was the cursed quarter for OKC. In their first third quarter of the season, they held Charlotte to 16 points, behind a concerted effort from each player that played, regardless of their experience, which is promising.
In Oklahoma City’s first game, we saw growth after last season from their key players, tenacity from having to play from behind, and the ability to play staunch defense, which isn’t usual for young teams with limited chemistry like the Thunder.
Something that is typical of a young team is not finishing games strong. That’s also what happened in the final 2 minutes of Saturday night’s game after turning the ball over six times.
Despite a poor ending, the Thunder won the day.