By Randy Renner
A funny thing happened on the way to a disastrous start for the Oklahoma City Thunder, they refused to lose their third straight to start the season instead coming up with an inspired performance and a thrilling 102-91 win over the shell-shocked Denver Nuggets.
The Thunder got off to a hot start, leading 29-17 after the first quarter, playing so surprisingly well the sellout crowd at The Peake responded with a standing ovation.
"I've never seen that before," said Thunder head coach Scott Brooks , "and I've been in this league for 25 years."
Brooks coached his guys as hard as we've seen him coach over the last few years and they responded. Perry Jones played almost 40 minutes splitting time between small forward and backup point guard. He scored 23 points and along with Serge Ibaka, who also scored 23, led the Thunder in scoring.
"The last time I played point guard was in high school," Jones said but with both Russell Westbrook and Reggie Jackson out with injuries there was no one else.
Sebastian Telfair started at the point and though his shot wasn't falling (1-for-10) he dished nine assists and grabbed four steals and four rebounds.
Kendrick Perkins, demoted to the bench at the start of the season, was nothing short of amazing. He scored 17 points, tied for the most points he's scored in a Thunder uniform, on near perfect shooting. He was 6-for-7 from the field and 5-for-6 at the line.
his replacement in the starting lineup, Steven Adams, also played well scoring 13 points.
Lance Thomas, the guy who played himself into a roster spot during training camp had another solid outing with a dozen points and eight rebounds and Andre Roberson was big on both end of the floor, scoring eight points, grabbing eight rebounds, handing out five assists and blocking three shots.
The Thunder led by as many as 26 points and never trailed but things did get a bit antsy in the fourth quarter. The Nuggets cut that big lead down to just three points at 88-85 with 2:53 to play but the good guys closed the game with a 14-6 run to seal the deal.
"What we saw out there exemplifies what we are as an organization," Brooks said. "That was unbelievable."
And improbable. Most folks, including me gave the Thunder little to no chance of winning, after all the injuries they were playing without 84 points worth of offense.
So how do you figure?
Well, heart and grit and guts don't show up in the stat sheet but it turns out this pieced together lineup of mostly backups (and even backups to the backups) have plenty of each and on this night they found some glory too.