The Oklahoma City Thunder spent this past week in Europe, making stops in Istanbul and Manchester, England, for a little preseason fun. After an exciting win over Fernebahce Ulker and a narrow victory over the Philadelphia 76ers, OKC fans now have a preview of what life will be like without Russell Westbrook.
What Went Down
Thunder 95, Fernebahce Ulker 82 – Friday, Oct. 4
Know Thy Enemy:
- Fernebahce has some swagger. Ex-Raptor legend Linas Kleiza is apparently still a person, who is now busy hanging on the rim after sweet dunks like it’s nothing.
- They also have Croatian sensation Bojan Bogdanovic, who the Nets currently own the rights to. He’s quite the bad boy himself, as he was kicked off the Croatian national team for partying too hard. If you’d like to read more about it, here’s a link to a rough Google translation of a Croatian news outlet.
The Thunder were the victors in their first preseason game, but it wasn’t pretty. The first half did not inspire hope in Westbrook-less success (maybe I was totally wrong). It looked very similar to the playoff series against Memphis, with Kevin Durant as the only scoring option. Their halfcourt game was stagnant and choppy, but they used their blatant athletic advantage to score easy buckets around the rim. OKC entered the half with only a six-point lead, but were able to bust it open with some huge plays. Durant, for example, may have thrown down one of the best dunks of the season.
Jeremy Lamb contributed to this dunkfest with a slam of his own once the game was out of reach.
Serge Ibaka and rookie Steven Adams were also pleasant surprises. Ibaka’s low post game looked more efficient than usual, which is a very good sign. Adams put up an energetic seven points, six rebounds and five fouls in 15 minutes. He’s a long-term project, but his footwork looked polished and would be a huge addition to the Thunder’s depth this year.
Thunder 103, Sixers 99 – Tuesday, Oct. 9
Know Thy Enemy:
- The Sixers and general manager Sam Hinkie are planning one of the most blatant and glorious tanking efforts the NBA has ever seen. Rookie Nerlens Noel may not play this year and established contributors Thaddeus Young and Evan Turner will probably be traded if they have any value, only making this team more abysmal. Tank away, Sixers.
- If you’re feeling lucky, however, the Sixers have 500-1 odds to win the Atlantic Division. Never in a million years will that actually happen, but the idea of turning $10 into $5,000 is intriguing.
The Thunder leave Europe 2-0, this time behind a very strong performance by Reggie Jackson. He dropped 29 points, eight assists, six rebounds and zero turnovers and looked much sharper than he did against Fernebahce. He moved strongly without the ball and penetrated, making all his free throws. Kevin Durant tore up the inexperienced Sixers defense for a near triple-double in only 33 minutes. In fact, the only reason this game remained close is because he didn’t play at all in the fourth quarter. Jeremy Lamb didn’t look as strong as he did against Fernebahce, but contributed a sweet chase-down block in the third quarter.
The young Sixers held their own, with Tony Wroten and Evan Turner putting up a combined 39 points in remarkably inefficient fashion. But Sixers fans should be pleased with the shooting of Michael Carter-Williams. He was 3-for-5 from beyond the arc, a skill he needs to rapidly improve on if he wants to flourish in this league.
Two games, two wins. Durant looked great, both in his scoring and passing. If the rest of the team can knock down the looks that Durant gives them, the Thunder should be in good shape.
GIF of the Week
The Thunder will be back on this side of the pond for another preseason affair with the Denver Nuggets on Tuesday, Oct. 15 in OKC. The Nuggets, without George Karl and Andre Iguodala, will likely take a few steps back this year. But they still have Ty Lawson and Kenneth Faried and play at a blistering pace. It should be fun.