Thunder Bests Bobcats in Preseason Home Opener

In the fourth quarter, the ball traveled from the short corner to the wing and then to the top of the key in the blink of an eye, and the Thunder ended up with three more points on the board.

It wasn’t just that example late in the game, but throughout Tuesday night’s 120-98 win over the Charlotte Bobcats, the Thunder made crisp passes to open teammates for high percentage buckets. The ball whizzed across the perimeter, crisply bounced into the post and floated perfectly next to the rim for Thunder alley-oops, as Head Coach Scott Brooks’ team racked up 34 assists, a total that would have been the team’s best figure all last season.

“I thought we passed the ball as well as we have all training camp,” Brooks said. “The passing was contagious. Hopefully we can continue that. I thought everybody really did a good job of getting open, getting space and moving the basketball.”

The Thunder posted solid assist numbers in the first two games of the preseason, but it was clear there was an extra effort by all of the players to make the extra pass. That unselfishness with the ball ensured that 11 different players scored for the Thunder, including seven players who scored in double figures. Rookie Perry Jones got into that passing action with five assists of his own, while Kevin Durant and Eric Maynor each posted seven helpers and Nick Collison finished with six.

“That was a point of emphasis today,” Jones said. “Everybody trusts each other, so it was easy to make quick ball movements and a lot of people finished for us.”

Not only were players thinking about helping others score, but players were helping themselves out by spacing the floor correctly, setting solid screens and moving without the basketball. All of those tactics resulted in a remarkable 64 percent shooting from the field – a number that also would have been a season-high in 2011-12.

“It’s something we talked about,” Brooks said. “It’s something that we will always stress with our offense, which is move the basketball. We have some dynamic players who can get into the paint and make plays for each other, but we did move the ball well. We attacked their trap and swung the extra pass. A lot of times it is contagious and you really have to give up a good shot to get a great shot. That’s what we did tonight.”

The high quality of play didn’t stop on the offensive end for the Thunder, which prides itself first and foremost on its defense. As Brooks noted, his team has the ability to score the ball, but it is constantly striving to be the best it possibly can on the defensive end of the floor. It was a four point game heading into halftime, but the Thunder out-scored Charlotte 24-14 in the third quarter, holding the Bobcats to 29.4 percent shooting, while out-rebounding the visitors by four and forcing them into five turnovers.

“Getting stops, just helping each other out on defense and doing the stuff we normally do,” Maynor said when asked what his team did during that stretch. “We were just able to do a good job at it tonight.”

After two preseason games in a row, it was pleasant for the Thunder to be back in Chesapeake Energy Arena and deliver a full team effort to get the win. It had been just over four full months since the team last played in Oklahoma City, but the atmosphere felt just like home from the start. A loud and energetic crowd filled the seats and welcomed the Thunder back, providing Jones an incredible entrance to his new NBA home arena.

“It was great, wonderful,” Jones said. “To be honest with you, it’s just like I saw it on TV. It was Loud City.”