By A. Suave Francisco
The city of Tulsa has dealt with a lot here lately. As everyone knows, the Terance Crutcher situation took place about a month ago, and in case you forgot, Tulsa lost their WNBA team, formally known as the Tulsa Shock at the end of last season and the Tulsa 66ers NBA D-League team the year before that. With that being said, the Oklahoma City Thunder coming to Tulsa for a preseason game means a lot to the community. This is their eighth year playing a game in Tulsa, but this year may have had the most significant impact on the city due to recent events.
Although the game was played on a Thursday evening, the BOK Center was packed, sold out actually. It looked like a real Thunder game. The atmosphere was electric, from start to finish and it honestly didn't feel like a preseason game until you looked on the floor and didn't see Russell Westbrook or any of the key players for more than half the game.
As for the actual game, Oklahoma City got off to a great start, something we haven't seen much of this preseason after cruising to a 31-17 lead at the end of the first quarter. That's obviously when Russell was in the game, scoring 10 quick points, but this inexperienced Thunder supporting cast got exposed in the second quarter as Memphis went on to score 41 points, taking the 58-52 lead going into halftime. From that point on the Grizzlies never even took a glance back. The third quarter was an extension of the second quarter, and in the fourth quarter the teams just traded baskets, so nothing changed. In the end, they lost to the Memphis Grizzlies 110-94.
Russell finished the game with 17 points, four assists and one rebound in just 16 minutes of play as expected in a preseason game. Victor Oladipo struggled in his fourth game in a Thunder uniform, scoring just five points on 1-of-6 shooting.
Two Thunder players that really impressed me and I'm sure Billy Donovan as well was Kyle Singler and newly acquired guard Alex Abrines. Singler finished with 15 points and six rebounds on 5-of-8 shooting and 5-of-6 from three. Abrines out-did Singler, scoring 19 points, shooting 5-of-6 from three as well.
This is something that the Thunder coaching staff must be impressed with. If these two players consistently shoot at a high level, along with Anthony Morrow, all three off the bench, this could be a fun year for Thunder basketball. However, if they don't improve their defense, this season could resemble past years. Scoring a lot of points, but also giving up a lot.
Oklahoma City's next game will be Sunday at 5 p.m., in Oklahoma City, OK against the Minnesota Timberwolves. Yes, it's another preseason game so don't expect this Thunder team to be at full strength. Hopefully, both Singler and Abrines will have impactful games like they had in Tulsa.