The Oklahoma City Thunder fell to the Golden State Warriors in the season opener on Tuesday night by a score of 108-100. After trailing by ten at halftime, the Thunder (namely Paul George) caught fire and jumped out to a 22-9 run to start the third quarter — building a three-point lead before ultimately falling down the stretch.
Despite the loss, there were plenty of encouraging takeaways from the game last night, especially being without Russell Westbrook and Andre Roberson for the time being. Here are five thoughts from the season opener.
Jerami Grant will play more than Patrick Patterson
Take notice of the verbiage there — Grant WILL play more, but Patrick Patterson will continue to start, as he is the more compatible option with the starters. However, Grant played the fourth most minutes for the Thunder last night — 29 in total — only behind George (37), Adams (36) and Schroder (34). Patterson had a very poor outing, shooting 2-of-9 from the field for 7 points in 19 minutes. Grant wasn’t too efficient from the field, either (2-of-7 FG), but he was effective; totaling 7 points, 3 blocks, 2 rebounds and 2 assists. He also played in Donovan’s closing lineup of Schroder-Ferguson-George-Grant-Adams at the end of the game.
Steven Adams has still got it
Big Kiwi had the kind of night of night the Thunder need from him on a consistent basis if they’re going to make some noise in the Western Conference. Adams filled up the box score with 17 points (6-of-12 FG), 11 rebounds, 4 assists, and 2 blocks, all while nursing lower back stiffness. Despite the Golden State bigs (Kevon Looney and Damian Jones) combining for 22 points and 13 rebounds on 11-of-18 shooting, Adams’ ability to do a little bit of everything was present — along with his quarterbacking of the Thunder defense.
There are efficiency issues
The Thunder shot a dreadful 36 percent (33-0f-91) from the field, 27 percent (10-of-37) from three and 65 percent (24-of-37) from the stripe. Point a finger at any one of those categories and you have a scapegoat for the loss. Quite honestly, it’s extremely encouraging the game was as close as it was. Even with Paul George’s second half heroics, he finished with 27 points on 24 field goal attempts. Schroder had an impressive 21-point showing, but it was bogged down by 19 shot attempts. The Thunder need to clean up their shot selection and, quite simply, just start making some shots (like they did in the second half).
Nerlens Noel Might Be a Guy
The addition of Nerlens Noel has flown largely under the radar with the retention of Paul George and the addition of Dennis Schroder, but the former sixth overall pick is in a symbiotic situation with the Thunder. He provides the Thunder with an athletic, active, true center off the bench that the team lacked last season. For Noel, he has an opportunity to remake his image and show that he belongs in this league before having the chance to opt-out of his contract and enter free agency this summer.
Noel had a rather unexceptional game in the box score, but made plenty of high-energy plays on the glass and in loose balls that don’t show up on the stat sheet. He totaled 3 points (1-of-2 FG), 7 rebounds, 1 steal, 1 block, and a whole lotta hustle.
These Warriors Bleed
As Arnold Schwarzenegger’s ‘Dutch’ once put it in 1987’s Predator: “If it bleeds, we can kill it.”
Through all of the Thunder’s struggles last night, and there were plenty, they still only lost by EIGHT POINTS. Granted, the Warriors had somewhat of an off night of their own, but if all it takes to get within striking distance of these Warriors is to force one of their core four into a cold streak (Klay Thompson was 5-of-20 from the field, 1-of-8 from three), then the Thunder and Warriors may be in for some fun showdowns this season. Imagine what this Thunder team can do when at full strength, say in the Western Conference Finals (?). With a healthy Russell Westbrook, a healthy Andre Roberson, and even just an average shooting night, this team has the firepower to win some big games this season. And I am very much here for it.