Maybe it’s the fact that Russell Westbrook is out, and it means taking on more scoring responsibilities, but it just might be that playing abroad comes with certain contracts that force teams to play with their stars like it’s a regular season game, as the Oklahoma City Thunder try and keep working out any way they can to make their absentee point guard less of a problem.
Durant played 33 minutes, Serge Ibaka played 36, Reggie Jackson played 36 and Jeremy Lamb played 40 minutes as the Thunder beat the Philadelphia 76ers 103-99 in Manchester. Durant finished with 21 points, and reversed a terrible start (making only three shots on his first 10 attempts) to bring back the Thunder from 3 points down at half time, giving him enough of a cushion to rest for the entire fourth quarter.
Reggie Jackson led the Thunder with 29 points, and his rise into a starter’s role in this preseason and from what he did for the Thunder during the playoffs isn’t important in just covering for injured until he gets back from his injury, but also in proving that his scoring ability is enough to be considered the third big-time scorer for the Thunder, who can’t do it with only two players beign able to make shots from the outside.
Jeremy Lamb is another important piece in that equation, although he finished with only 7 points on 40 minutes of basketball, going an awful 0-for-8 from beyond the arc and 2-for-12 from the field. No one is expecting Lamb to average 15 points a game, but the initial assumption is that Jackson is less of a gifted scorer than James Harden and even Kevin Martin, so the Thunder will need more outside scoring. That’s where Lamb comes in, entering his second season in the league, hardly getting a chance to prove himself last season, and so far not showing any signs of being someone capable of providing serious scoring support from the bench.
The 76ers got 19 points out of Evan Turner, supposedly their leading player at the moment, with Michael Carter-Williams adding 11 on his debut for an NBA team. Tony Wroten led all scorers with 20 points off the bench.
Speaking of bench, the Thunder used only six players off of it, as Thabo Sefolosha got himself a night without too much basketball (playing nine minutes), while Kendrick Perkins didn’t step on the floor for a single second, as rookie Steven Adams started at center instead, scoring 6 points.