By Randy Renner, Senior Writer
There were still plenty of defensive breakdowns and way, way too many turnovers by the offense, but when it counted the most the Thunder defense went into shutdown mode.
Even better it was the Thunder bench, burned repeatedly on Monday, that put out the fire on Wednesday securing a 92-89 win over FC Barcelona.
Enes Kanter started the game in place of Steven Adams, who sat out with a sprained ankle. Kanter was in at the end of the game too scoring the final six points for OKC. Kanter finished with 24, after having 29 in Monday’s loss at Madrid.
Coming down the stretch Kanter’s teammates on their floor were Alex Abrines, Josh Huestis, Ronnie Price and Domantas Sabonis and all played big roles in keeping the Thunder out of the loss column.
“It forces them to gain some mental and physical toughness in those situations,” head coach Billy Donovan explained. “It puts them in crucial situations coming down the stretch. I’m glad the game worked out the way it did with the guys we had on the floor. I think they gained a lot of experience from that.”
Both Huestis and Abrines had big blocks in the last couple of minutes and Barcelona went 0-for-4 to closeout the game.
Overall Barcelona shot just 42.9 percent for the game while the Thunder hit 50.8 percent.
Kanter’s 24 points led OKC, he also pulled down a team high eight rebounds. Russell Westbrook, who again played limited minutes (21) scored 12 points on 2-for-7 shooting but was 8-for-10 at the free throw line. He also had five assists and two steals but committed six of the Thunder’s 25 turnovers.
“We know how to play the game the right way if we put our mind to it,” Westbrook said. “It’s just pace. We have to play faster.”
And smarter. Those turnovers could have been game killers.
“We don’t have any room for error,” he said. “We turned the ball over too much tonight, including myself. That’s the reason why it was a close game…we gave them too many opportunities.”
Victor Oladipo played 30 minutes, the most on the team, scoring 10 points on 3-for-8 shooting. Sabonis, who may end up starting the season at power forward, was impressive again finishing with eight points on 3-for4 shooting (2-for-2 on threes). His footwork and basketball instincts once again were on display with several nice moves at the rim and away from the ball.
Most impressive though might be the work of guard Andre Roberson whose overall offensive game continues to expand. Roberson started showing during last season’s playoffs and that’s continued. He scored eight points on 4-for-5 shooting (including a 360 degree dunk). He also had a couple of really nice assists and set up a couple of others.
The Thunder are practicing one last time in Spain today before flying back to OKC. Their next preseason game is Tuesday in Dallas against the Mavericks.