Five Thoughts

OKC @ Dallas: Preseason #3

(1) When a Loss Isn’t a Loss

First and foremost: You play to win. I get that. But when the games don’t count for anything, moral victories are a lot easier to stomach. I walked away from Tuesday’s 114–109 preseason loss to Dallas with a fresh batch of optimism. Let me explain.

Entering the Third Quarter with a 14 point deficit, the Thunder outscored the Mavs 40–26 over the frame and took an 82–82 tie into the Fourth. Oklahoma City trailed by as many as 20 earlier in the contest, so it was encouraging to see the squad claw back into contention when it could have easily rolled over in a meaningless affair.

Russell Westbrook only played the First and Third Quarters. Steven Adams sat due to his bum ankle. Andre Roberson was out with injury, as well. You really get the sense this Thunder team is very much looking for its new identity, but we saw enough out of the role players to at least feel better about the team as a whole. I’m interested to see how it all looks at full strength and in games that matter, but the concerns about the second unit are still very real.

(2) Role Playing Game

So how about this for your scoring leaders?

Ersan Ilyasova notched a double-double with 19 points and 11 rebounds. Kyle Singler (more on him later) exploded for a 14 point Third Quarter and finished with 17. King Joffrey Lauvergne even flashed some of his potential with 15 points (5/9 FG) and 6 rebounds.

I’m not certain what sort of sustainability we can realistically expect out of any of these guys, but for one night they handled their business. This Thunder team is infinitely better when contributions come from unexpected places, so go ahead and cross your fingers for more of that.

(3) Kyle Singler Looked….Really Good

Kyle Singler drew the start in place of Andre Roberson, and you know what? He played very well. You have to give credit where credit is due.

Right after he went nuclear for 14 points in the Third Quarter, I found myself sitting there thinking… “What if he can do this more often?

Naturally that idea seems far-fetched based on what we’ve seen, but there is still a part of me that can’t let go of Kyle Singler. Maybe it’s the fact he’s under contract for four more years — I don’t know. But you can’t watch him go 4/6 from downtown and NOT feel like he was doing exactly what he was intended to do this entire time.

Will he do it? His history in Oklahoma City suggests that he won’t. But on a team that needs (A) Three-point shooting, and (B) Small Forwards… Sign me up for another run with Singler. Let’s get wild.

I look forward to eating these words as soon as early November.

(4) Russell Westbrook: Human Highlight Reel

I feel like we’re going to be saying this a lot, but Russell Westbrook dazzled last night. This was easily the most impressive play of the evening:

(5) The Question at Power Forward

Domantas Sabonis made his third consecutive start at Power Forward, and I have to say: I really like the kid a lot. He struggled with his shot (2/8 FG) and seems far too comfortable shooting from downtown (0/5 3P), but he’s a smart player with what appears to be a bright future. Definitely a Sam Presti kind of guy.

However, the best Power Forward on the roster last night was Ersan Ilyasova. The Turkish Hammer dropped 19 points and 11 rebounds on 7/11 shooting. He looked quite fluid from long range, as well, hitting 3/5 attempts. You could certainly argue he makes a greater impact when running with the inexperienced second unit, but performances like last night could go a long way toward getting him in the starting lineup. It appears, for now, that job still belongs to Sabonis.

The Thunder return home to Oklahoma on Thursday night, and will face the Memphis Grizzlies at the BOK Center in Tulsa. It’s yet to be seen if Steven Adams will return to action, but the game is scheduled to tip-off at 7PM and tickets are still available.