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Thunder 88, Mavericks 76: Five thoughts


The Thunder finished off their preseason slate of games with an 88-76 win over the Mavericks to go 4-3 overall. Kevin Durant led the way with 18 points, James Harden had 16 and Serge Ibaka added 15, all in the first half.

That puts a lid on the preseason for Oklahoma City, which is excellent news because it means actual games that count are the next thing on the schedule. Woo.

Here are five quick takeaways from the preseason finale:

1. I would assume Scott Brooks used this last preseason game as a dress rehearsal for the regular season, and if so, here’s what the rotation is going to look like: The usual starting five with Harden and Nick Collison first off the bench, Eric Maynor as the backup point guard, Cole Aldrich as the backup center and Perry Jones III seeing time at power forward.

I would doubt that Brooks is cutting Daequan Cook completely out, but it wouldn’t shock me if he becomes more of a situational shooter, used in certain situations and matchups.

2. It’s only the preseason, but it appears that Serge Ibaka has improved, a lot. Another very strong performance for him, scoring 15 points in the first half while remaining very active on the glass. Someone asked me on Twitter how I’d describe Ibaka’s improvement and I think it’s simple: more confident.

He’s not hesitating at all on catches. He’s very decisive with his mid-range jumper and it seems like he’s taking a lot of ownership in OKC’s offense. He’s not forcing the issue, but he’s not afraid at all to feature prominently. If Ibaka really is going to become a consistent 20-point-a-game threat (meaning he could potentially go for that many any given night), the Thunder’s offense just hit a new, terrifying level.

3. I don’t think Brooks gave any obvious hints as who his 15th man might be. Andy Rautins was the first non-guarantee guy off the bench with Hollis Thompson being the only other to see time. The two favorites for the spot, DeAndre Liggins and Daniel Orton, didn’t play. It seems like all signs would point to Liggins seeing how much time he got in the preseason, but Orton is the sensible pick. Then again, he only played in one game during the preseason.

4. Two big developments: The Thunder wore dark shoes with their home whites and Fox Sports Oklahoma had some new commercials. Good signs.

5. Hopefully it’s just a preseason thing, but it really seems that Harden is forcing more shots than he ever has. What’s made him so great has been his uncanny efficiency and smart play. But coming off a game where he took 17 shots last night, Harden hoisted 15 in this one with a number of them being really tough contested jumpers. Maybe he’s making a conscious effort to be aggressive as a scorer, but he’s at his best when he lets the game flow naturally to him. He’s pressing for some reason and it’s not a good look for him.

6. Bonus: Brian Davis Line of the Night: “Brandon Wright on the floor and fed naked in the low post for the jam.”

Next up: The regular season.