Stout Defense, Buzzer Beater Blocks Save Thunder

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By Randy Renner, Senior Writer

As Thunder coach Billy Donovan and his players have said, the offense will come around. 

The defense appears to already be here, holding Melbourne United to 34.6 percent shooting, forcing them into 17 turnovers and then blocking the last two United shots to secure an 86-85 win.

"I think defensively we continue to get better and improve," Donovan said. "When your offense is not there, if you defend you give yourself every opportunity."

Except for the 1st quarter, when Melbourne shot 54.5 percent, the Thunder created havoc on the defensive end and made sure the Aussies felt the pressure. Melbourne shot 35.7 percent in the 2nd quarter, 21.1 percent in the 3rd and 26.9 percent in the 4th.

The Thunder also blocked 10 shots, half of them coming in the last 4:45 of the game and Josh Huestis had four of those five, the last one coming on Melbourne's last shot with 1.1 to play.

"It's fun to be able to do that," Huestis said after the game, "But it comes down to team defense. We had guys funnel everybody to the right spots and we had the right rotations. I just happened to be in the right spot."

Paul George was credited with a block 3.9 seconds earlier.

He again led Oklahoma City in scoring with 22 points but he struggled at times with his shot going just 5-for-17 and 3-for-10 on threes. It was a common problem for the Thunder who shot 34.6 percent overall and 25 percent from beyond the arc.

"We did not shoot particularly well," Donovan admitted. "I thought we had some good looks and good opportunities. The ball just didn’t go down."

Carmelo Anthony scored 19 points on 6-for-19 shooting (4-for-8 on threes), Russell Westbrook had nine points on 3-for-10 overall (0-for-3 from deep). Steven Adams had another solid game with 12 points (5-for-9), 10 rebounds and two blocks.

Melo also had seven rebounds and a couple of blocks while being aggressive on the defensive end.

“We want to be one of the top teams in the NBA defensively and I think we showed that tonight," Anthony said.

"There were spurts where we were very, very efficient on the defensive end and I think once you look back at the whole game, you will see the numbers and see that it was a very good game for us defensively. Offensively we know that we are going to have bad shooting nights but we don’t really worry about that, we don’t harp on that. We can’t have a bad night defensively if we want to be a great team."

And no question the Thunder want to be a great team but it's just going to take a while to work out some of the kinks and remember neither Patrick Patterson nor Alex Abrines have even been able to practice full contact yet, much less play in any games.

The Thunder close out the preseason in Denver Tuesday then will have eight days to get ready for the regular season opener against the New York Knicks.