Morning Rewind, 10/29: Thunder set an early tone by knocking off San Antonio
By JOHN DORN
After a three-game opening night for the NBA on Tuesday, the league began full operation on Wednesday night with a 14-game slate. While it's still way too early to get a feel for what these teams will actually amount to be, the first week of the season serves as a great way for teams to reacquaint themselves with the hardwood and work out any kinks.
The team that was in the most desperate need for a new season to commence was perhaps the Oklahoma City Thunder, who after a lost, injury-riddled season in 2014-15 missed out on the playoffs and fired coach Scott Brooks. In Kevin Durant's walk year, it almost seems as if it's NBA Finals-or-bust, which is an incredibly tall task for first-year NBA coach Billy Donovan.
They have their work cut out for them, but they got started off the right way on Wednesday.
Against a fellow Western Conference heavyweight in the San Antonio Spurs, the Thunder recorded their first win of the season on their home floor. In his first game since Feb. 19, Kevin Durant struggled from the field, but his eight free throws helped him total 22 points to go along with six boards. Russell Westbrook scored 33 points and dished out 10 assists, while Enes Kanter gave 15 points off the bench.
It was a slow night for LaMarcus Aldridge in his San Antonio debut, shooting just 4-of-12 -- he took fewer than 13 shots just three times all of last season, so there's definitely going to be an adjustment period for the All-Star in this new setting. Tim Duncan went for eight points and six boards over 26 minutes and Tony Parker scored 10 -- but it was Kawhi Leonard who stole the show in the Spurs' opener.
Leonard shot 13-of-22, going for 32 points, while grabbing eight boards, three steals and swatting away two shots.
The Spurs were in the game late, but Westbrook knocked down a huge dagger to steal the crowd and put the game on ice.
There never really seems to be a time to panic with the Spurs, so we can only imagine they'll be fine in due time -- especially with Leonard putting up these types of numbers. For OKC, though, there's reason for celebration. After a long offseason, they know they can handle their competition in the West -- even while Durant works himself into ideal playing form.
Thunder 112, Spurs 106
Around the League
WAS 88, ORL 87
In Scott Skiles' first game as Magic head coach, Orlando lost on this non-goaltending call at the final buzzer. Frustrating for sure, but it was an encouraging night, with six Magic players scoring in double-figures against a good Wizards team.
DET 92, UTAH 87
The Pistons impressed for a second straight game, fueled by success form beyond the three-point arc -- which will be imperative for their offense this season. Ersan Ilyasova and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope each hit a pair of threes while Marcus Morris, Reggie Jackson and Stanley Johnson all added one.
BOS 112, PHI 95
Boston won the game, and Philly lost -- which it will do often this season. But in Jahlil Okafor and Nerlens Noel, the 76ers finally have a core of talent to build around. Okafor scored 26 points in his NBA debut and grabbed seven boards, while Noel scored 14 points with 12 rebounds, three steals and two blocks.
CHI 115, BKN 100
Yeah, it might be tough getting the Nets crowd into it this year. The team lost by 15, didn't make a three-pointer, and despite Brook Lopez's 26 points, didn't really stand a chance from the start.
DAL 111, PHX 95
The Mavs got double-digit scoring from eight different players, including Raymond Felton, who scored a team-high 18. Deron Williams added 12 and seven assists, Zaza Pachulia went for 10 and 10, and Dallas was able to start off on the winning side.
MIA 104, CHA 94
Justise. Winslow. In his NBA debut, the rookie scored five points and grabbed seven rebounds, but threw down this insane jam and was a team-high plus-26.
TOR 106, IND 99
When Paul George has just 17 points on 17 shots, things probably won't go very well for the Pacers this season. Monta Ellis shot just 3-of-11, and three Raptors players scored at least 20.
DEN 105, HOU 85
The Nuggets are probably bound for a rough year, but in Emmanuel Mudiay, Danilo Gallinari and Kenneth Faried, they have a pretty fun core. Gallo went for 23 points and eight boards while Mudiay posted 17 and nine assists in his NBA debut (despite 11 turnovers) -- but fell a bit short of throwing down a thunderous dunk on Corey Brewer.
NYK 122, MIL 97
After one game, the Knicks already have one-fifteenth of their 2014-15 win total. They demolished the Bucks on their home floor in the opener, though they were missing three starters in O.J. Mayo, Jabari Parker and Giannis Antetokounmpo. Carmelo Anthony had 11 points, six boards and five assists while Derrick Williams led the Knicks in scoring with 24 points.
CLE 106, MEM 76
It took a game longer than they would've liked, but the Cavs got their first win in Memphis on Wednesday in blowout fashion. Kevin Love led the way with 17 and 13 boards, while LeBron put up 12 points, seven rebounds, five assists and three steals in the victory.
POR 112, NOP 94
C.J. McCollum has been projected to break out a bit this season, considering the Blazers' lack of talent, but we're not sure anybody expected this type of outburst, this early. He went for 37 points on 14-off-22 shooting, to go along with six boards and a steal.
MIN 112, LAL 111
Classy move on both teams' parts for honoring the late Flip Saunders before the game. The Wolves went on to win -- an even better way to honor their former coach.
LAC 111, SAC 104
The Kings made it closer toward the end, but Los Angeles was able to keep them at bay on their home court. DeMarcus Cousins went for 32 and 13 boards in the losing effort, though he turned it over eight times and fouled out.