By A. Suave Francisco
The Oklahoma City Thunder finally returned to the Chesapeake Energy Arena for their fifth preseason game on Sunday night. There's been a ton of questions regarding the new Thunder supporting cast but after a very strong defensive performance and a clear offensive flow, many questions were answered. The Thunder beat the Minnesota Timberwolves 112-94.
When they made the trade getting Victor Oladipo, the talk around the NBA was that of Russell and Victor being a very dangerous duo on the court, particularly defensively. There haven't been many times where we could say The Thunder played spectacularly well on both sides of the ball but that's exactly what happened tonight and the OKC fan base got their first preview of what this team could be.
Russell Westbrook looked like he was in mid-season form, finishing tonight's game with a double-double; 26 points, 10 assists, and three rebounds in 30 minutes of play. He and Steven Adams looked like the undisputed leaders of this basketball team.
Speaking of Steven Adams, remember just last week when he sprained his ankle, then retwisted it in practice? This was his first game back and he returned with a vengeance with 20 points, 11 rebounds, and surprisingly but not so surprisingly, six assists.
This is a great sign for both Adams and Russell, but specifically Adams. Following a breakout year where many people started rumoring that he may be the best all-around big man in the NBA, many expected him to potentially drop off, especially following Kevin Durant's departure. Many times we see NBA players have one huge breakout year and then mediocrity through the majority of their NBA career..hello Lance Stevenson. That doesn't seem to be the case here.
Although it's clear Victor Oladipo is simply trying to learn the Oklahoma City offense, we've all seen flashes where this guy is going to be a great addition to this Thunder team and possibly the future. Against the Timberwolves he finished with 11 points and five rebounds on 5-of-12 shooting. His defensive intensity personally impressed me. Although he only got one steal in the game, he caused so much havoc on the ball and altered plenty of shots.
The team was finally able to gel and play well together for the first time this preseason. This much progress with team chemistry before the season actually starts presents a great deal of optimism for the team and the fans.
The Thunder will face off against the Denver Nuggets at home on Tuesday evening for the last preseason game of the season before opening the regular season in Philadelphia on the road. Look for Billy Donovan to really prime his lineups against the Nuggets to ensure their readiness for the regular season.