After a rocky start to the 2012 NBA preseason, the Oklahoma City Thunder (2-2) evened their record up with a big 107-97 win over the Phoenix Suns on Oct. 19. The game brought in the biggest crowd in BOK Center history, as Oklahoma City showed off some of their support players.
With Thabo Sefolosha and Kendrick Perkins still out with injuries, Hasheem Thabeet and DeAndre Liggins started the game, alongside Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka.
Thabeet is the player most people were looking at. The 2009 Draft pick has been a work in progress for the Thunder since joining the team. At 7-foot-3, 263-pounds, the player is a physical specimen but still has a lot to learn. Currently, Thabeet sits third on the depth chart behind Perkins and Cole Aldrich, but Oklahoma City has faith in the big man.
In his first start of the preseason, Thabeet had five points and four rebounds. He also picked up a technical when he mixed it up with Jermaine O’Neal in the second quarter.
“I felt a lot more comfortable (in the third quarter),” Thabeet said after the game. “The pace of the game was fast at first. I had to adjust to it, you know. My teammates trusted me and still passed me the ball. It was great.”
Liggins finished with seven points and six rebounds. However, the stars of the game were no surprise. Kevin Durant scored 22 points, with three steals and four rebounds. Russell Westbrook finished with a double-double, scoring 18 points while dishing out 12 assists. Serge Ibaka added 13 points and eight rebounds. Reserve center Cole Aldrich even chipped in with 12 points and six rebounds. It was a nice overall game for the Thunder, from top to bottom.
“We showed a lot (of toughness),” Durant said. “We kind of turned it up a little bit on the defensive end, but we got good shots. We didn’t knock some of them down, but we’re moving the ball really well. I’m excited about that. We’re going to come out and play hard and scrappy for 48 minutes. We have guys that are going to do that so we just have to continue getting better.”
In the battle for Westbrook’s backup position, Eric Maynor and second-year player Reggie Jackson remained neck-to-neck. Maynor scored nine points with five assists in 20:48, while Jackson scored seven points with three assists and five rebounds in 23:46. Jackson’s improvement has been refreshing.
“I think it’s just kind of natural,” Jackson said. “You get a few early baskets and they kind of collapse and then wherever you see the defender come obviously that’s probably where he’s leaving an offensive man. I’m just staying aggressive and trying to make the right plays.”
The Oklahoma City Thunder head back to Oklahoma City on Sunday, Oct. 21, to take on the Denver Nuggets, with tip-off at 7 p.m. CST.
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