• Matthew Handel

Early Takeaways from the Thunder’s First Win

Well, it has finally happened, we saw the Oklahoma City Thunder play a game without Kevin Durant. Russell Westbrook, as expected, was amazing and put up Russell Westbrook numbers, but some things weren’t as one would have imagined. Heading into the final quarter, the Thunder found themselves down six to the Philadelphia 76ers, a team that was supposed to be awful this season. The Thunder would eventually win the game by 6, but it was down to wire despite the fact that Westbrook had a ridiculous 32-12-9 stat line.

Some things to take away from the game were Victor Oladipo played very average, the Thunder are going to take some time to get used to playing without KD, and Enes Kanter is going to be a beast this season. Oladipo, in his first game as a member of the team, posted 10 points and 5 rebounds, while starting at shooting guard. In order for this team to be successful this season Oladipo will need to put up more points than this, especially from behind the three-point line (0-5). They brought him in to play off of Westbrook and give the Thunder another scoring option, but it just didn’t happen like that in the first game of the season. He had a great game in pre-season, where he scored 34 points, and he is more than capable of making big defensive plays like this one this season;

You can tell from watching the game that there will need to be some time to figure each other out in the first part of the season for the Thunder. When you lose a great player like Kevin Durant, you can expect to lose scoring, passing, and defensive ability, but the Thunder, especially Westbrook, don’t want to use that as an excuse this season. With Russell doing so much work, guys will need to step up and take some of the load off of his shoulders on both ends of the court.

Two guys that managed to do that in the first game were Steven Adams and Enes Kanter. Adams had 16 points and 5 rebounds, while also posting a plus 13 plus/minus rating. He is a strong low post defender, but it was nice to see him get involved on the offensive end of the floor. His buckets were almost all layups coming from nice assists from Westbrook, but that is exactly the type of points he will be counted on to make this season. Kanter also had a great line, scoring 17 points and pulling down 12 rebounds. Kanter has more of a mid range ability, but isn’t quite the bruiser down low like Adams (nobody really is). Kanter actually came off the bench, while rookie Domantas Sabonis got the start, but Kanter ended up playing more minutes than Sabonis (24 compared to 16). I would expect to see Kanter in the starting lineup much more than Sabonis moving forward, but Sabonis is no slouch coming off the bench.

It goes without saying that the Thunder will take a little bit to get used to playing without Kevin Durant, but there is plenty to be excited about this season for the boys out West. Russell Westbrook is going to put up MVP type numbers and this team could end up being the fourth or fifth best team in the Western Conference. To make it happen though, players not named Russell Westbrook will need to step up each and every night to get the team the amount of wins they are capable of. There may never be a “Robin” to the Thunder’s Superman (Russell Westbrook), but that’s okay, because as long as the other guys can contribute as much as they can, the Oklahoma City Thunder will be okay this season.

For complete game highlights of the Thunder’s first win, check it out here: http://www.nba.com/thunder/video/2016/10/27/1477551694582-161026-at-PHI-cutdown-v2-891529

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