4 min read

Thunder kick off the new era with a 112-106 win over the Spurs


Here’s the big takeaway for me: Kevin Durant is back, and for the most part, so are the Thunder.

Are they different? Are they better? Are they deeper?

Sure, yeah, probably. In the end, it was pretty simple what happened on Wednesday against the Spurs. The Thunder trailed for a lot of the game, held in it by Russell Westbrook’s awesomeness. The Thunder were within striking distance with four minutes left, and even with Kevin Durant having an off comeback game, he stepped into a classic straightaway 3 to give OKC a lead. Then Dion Waiters hit back-to-back clutch jumpers wait what we’re off the rails here now.

Dion Waiters did what now?

He knocked down a late clock step-back jumper with 2:11 left to tie the game up at 103-103. Then he followed that up with a mid-post jumper over a mismatched Tony Parker to put OKC up 105-103 with 1:34 left.

“It makes us less predictable in the fourth quarter,” Durant said.

Durant meant that seriously, but it’s there’s some unintentional comedy there. Because with Waiters on the floor, it was hard to predict that would be the outcome.

“I think Dion’s one of those guys that has a lot of confidence and belief in himself,” Billy Donovan said. “Sometimes I think when he’s out there with the second unit, there are times maybe he feels he has to do maybe more than he needs to, because he’s trying to add some life into the group. Which is fine because I want him to be aggressive. But I give him credit because he kept his focus coming out, and then going back in the final five minutes.”

Said Waiters: “Go out here, get a chance to do what I do and my teammates trusted me. We went to mismatches and I made big shots.”

Then there was Enes Kanter, the other polarizing new guy, who just put up a measly 15 points and 16 rebounds in 24 minutes against LaMarcus Aldridge, Tim Duncan and David West.

“It’s great, but that’s what he does,” Westbrook said. That’s not anything new to us. That’s what he does.”

But it was about Durant’s return and while it was a bit rugged, it was effective. This game honestly reminded me a lot of the ones the Thunder played the final two months of last season. Westbrook was awesome (33 points and 10 assists), Kanter was good, and some of the other guys were decent, but in the closing moments, where was the cutting edge going to come from? And even though it was only one shot and four free throws, just having Durant back was enough to close out an excellent team like the Spurs.

“It felt good, man,” Durant said. “I had some in-and-out looks tonight. My looks felt great but to hit that one was big for our team. My teammates trust me and I was struggling shooting the basketball but they stuck with me.”

It’s one game. It’s one win. And really, not all that much looked different too me. Maybe I was trying too hard to see something change, but in the end it was a few critical stops and a few big shots. It was kind of your standard run-of-the-mill close Thunder win. There was some more movement, some more passing. But it wasn’t all that complicated either. It was Durant, it was Westbrook and most importantly, it was the Thunder. The real one.


  • Billy Donovan is now undefeated as an NBA head coach, and 1-0 against Gregg Popovich. Can you say home run hire?
  • Durant on Donovan: “I know it’s one of many games, but to give him his first ‘W’ especially at home on a huge stage against a big time team, it felt good. He was calm all night and that kind of rubbed off on us.”
  • For like 30 seconds, Andre Roberson was the Thunder’s leading scorer this season.
  • Anthony Morrow the first off the bench. But the second half, Enes Kanter was. Here were the rotation takeaways: DNP-CDs for Mitch McGary, Kyle Singler and Steve Novak, with Cameron Payne and Josh Huestis as inactives. Kanter and Adams played minutes together, Westbrook and Durant sat some together.
  • I don’t know if the world considers Kawhi Leonard a superstar yet, but the officials sure do.
  • Leonard is awesome though. I picked Anthony Davis for MVP this preseason, but I already wish I had gone with Leonard. He’s a monster on both ends.
  • Durant played 34:30 tonight. Which in this kind of game in the past, he easily would’ve played 38-plus. Probably more than 40.
  • You guys see that Waiters layup in the first quarter? What? Where? Huh?
  • More Donovan on Waiters: I agree with the analytics because I really feel that when you attack the paint and take advantage of the 3-point line, get to the three throw line, that’s the most efficient way to score. And Dion’s learning the balance between that. But I would say this: One of the thing’s that happens with Dion is he’s a good late clock player … sometimes you need guys late clock that can make those shots. Because you’re hung up and it’s five seconds and the clock’s going down and you need someone to manufacture a shot anywhere on the floor. And sometimes he can get those shots off and make them at a pretty good rate.”
  • Donovan then said he doesn’t want to take away Waiters’ aggressiveness but they’re working on the balance between understanding early in the clock, that’s not the best shot. But late, he can be a pretty valuable player.
  • Pregame, Pop was asked about Donovan and if they had a prior relationship and Pop said simply, “no.” He was obviously kidding, because Donovan shared a great story postgame about visiting the Spurs last fall and how gracious Pop was with him.
  • Donovan on Durant and his health: “I don’t think he wants to talk about it anymore. And I get it. Because he is healed. He is fully cleared to play. And I think taking his temperature every day, after every game, after every practice, I think for him, it gets old. And rightfully so. He’s a healthy basketball player right now.”
  • Westbrook: “We’re all getting used to playing with each other and everybody getting back into the groove of things. And once we get it clicking, it’s going to be hard to stop us.”

Next up: At the Magic on Friday