Thunder vs. Houston Rockets Game Recap – Oct. 3, 2017

TULSA – The Thunder’s first preseason game in the state of Oklahoma was held at the BOK Center in Tulsa against the Houston Rockets. Tonight the Thunder was back in the building, celebrating the start of its 10th season of NBA basketball against the same opponent.

It was a 104-97 loss for the Thunder in its opening exhibition clash of the 2017-18 campaign, but it was a thrilling one for the crowd in Tulsa, who got the first glimpse of this deep, talented and veteran-laden squad competing against an opponent. Russell Westbrook, Patrick Patterson and Alex Abrines did not play as they recover from minor left knee ailments, but the fans had plenty to digest with the debuts of Paul George and Carmelo Anthony, along with a variety of other role players who will make an impact this season.

Pair of threats. Melo/PG score their first points in Thunder uniforms. #NBAPreseason

A post shared by Oklahoma City Thunder (@okcthunder) on Oct 3, 2017 at 8:43pm PDT

Anthony started off hot in this one, scoring the first 10 points for the Thunder in the first quarter, finishing with 19 points in 20 minutes of action, all in the first half. After knocking down a three-pointer from the right wing, Anthony unleashed his patented celebration, tapping the side of his head with three fingers. It was visible, Anthony was cooking and loving every second of it. He plays with a unique joy, relishing opportunities to roast defenders in a way that is so very Melo.

“That feel is back. That joy,” Anthony said. “Being happy out there on the court again. Being excited, being motivated to be out there on the court again. That feeling is back for me.”

As the first period came to a close, however, the Rockets start to heat up from behind the arc. All told it was a 16-2 Houston run between the end of the first and beginning of the second quarters, and the Thunder never led after that burst. Part of what held the Thunder back all night was turnovers. They coughed up four in the opening minutes and 20 total for the game, leading to 30 Rockets points.

The Thunder’s reserves pulled to within seven with just over 90 seconds remaining with a run aided by a scoring streak by rookie Daniel Hamilton, the Thunder’s first ever Two-Way player who will split time this season with the Oklahoma City Blue. Houston knocked down yet another three-pointer, however, and put an end to the Thunder’s chance to pull out a comeback in the closing minute.

For the night, the Thunder’s defense held Houston to 41.8 percent shooting but allowed the Rockets to knock down a whopping 24 three-pointers on 55 attempts. More than two-thirds of Houston’s field goal attempts were from behind the arc. That’s surely an issue that the Thunder will address in practice the next few days before Friday night’s home tilt against the New Orleans Pelicans.

“Several of those three-point shots we closed out to contain instead of closing out to run them off the line. A couple dribble hand offs we got caught going underneath,” Head Coach Billy Donovan said. “The effort in terms of what we were trying to do defensively was there, it’s just a matter of executing better.”

“The game is definitely changing. That’s outrageous. The only way to adjust is more on our end, we have to minimize those opportunities,” center Steven Adams said. “It’s running them off properly and making sure they don’t get those attempts.”

Watch: Postgame Interviews

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Ferguson Comes Home

Tulsa’s native son Terrance Ferguson is one of the newest members of the Thunder, and the rookie showed why he was worthy of the Thunder’s first round draft selection this past June. Because he didn’t participate in Summer League in Orlando, Sunday’s Blue and White Scrimmage and tonight’s game were many Thunder fans’ first opportunities to see him play live.

In 19 minutes of play, Ferguson racked up eight points on 2-for-4 shooting, a rebound and a steal. In addition to being confident and aggressive offensively, he played some pesky defense on the likes of James Harden and Eric Gordon. Ferguson is long, lean and athletic with a quick shooting stroke. Donovan likes what he’s seen so far in terms of Ferguson’s feistiness and willingness to stick his nose in there on defense to make deflections and muck things up. He’s made quite the impression so far on George.

“Terrance is very poised,” George said. “He reminds me a lot of myself as a rookie coming into this league. He just doesn’t mind the pressure. It doesn’t bother him. He plays hard-nosed on both ends. He’s very aggressive, attacking. Defensively he’s trying to get after guys. He has a bright future. The luxury for myself is to see someone like me and try to help him along the way.”

“You see a young guy who has all the potential, all the intangibles. He just needs the experience part,” George continued. “That’s what our job is to speed that process up for him.”

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By the Numbers

15 – Points for Paul George on 6-for-13 shooting to go with five rebounds and two assists in 26 minutes

24-for-55 – Three-point shooting numbers for the Rockets on the night, accounting for 72 of the Rockets 104 points

45-37 – Rebounding edge for the Thunder on the night, led by Josh Huestis’ seven

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The Last Word

“As a group, we found some things that worked. We obviously found some things we have to get better and work on, but overall the effort was there. A lot of the things we’re drilling was there. That’s what these preseason games are for, to evaluate and push forward.” – forward Paul George

Uni looks good on him. #PG13 scores 15 in first preseason game.

A post shared by Oklahoma City Thunder (@okcthunder) on Oct 3, 2017 at 7:31pm PDT

Thanks Tulsa! Another sellout at the BOK. #ThunderUp

A post shared by Oklahoma City Thunder (@okcthunder) on Oct 3, 2017 at 6:50pm PDT

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