Live from the Ford Center: Thunder vs. Phoenix Suns

Recap

For three and a half quarters on Monday, the Thunder played what head coach Scott Brooks called extremely good basketball.

The final six or seven minutes, not so much.

But when the Thunder was able to regroup and come away with a 110-105 overtime win over the Phoenix Suns at the Ford Center, it went back to what Brooks has continued to say throughout the preseason: every minute is valuable, every opportunity should be seized.

Players who usually wouldn’t have a chance to close out a game did. Guys who typically wouldn’t share the floor together were able to do that. They made it work.

“How many minutes you get in a game, whether it’s exhibition, regular season or playoffs, you’ve got to play them hard and play them as well as you can,” Brooks said.

Turnovers were an issue in the second half, when the Thunder committed 15 of its 25, and it played a significant factor down the stretch when OKC blew a 10-point fourth quarter lead.

One thing Brooks has stressed throughout training camp has been passing, something he was pleased with on Monday. Brooks said there were several instances where players passed up open 16- and 17-foot jump shots, but he considered that a good problem to have. The Thunder tallied 25 assists on 40 field goals, led by Russell Westbrook’s 10 assists to go with 10 points.

Westbrook, for his part, has tallied 27 assists to six turnovers in three preseason games.

Kevin Durant scored 19 of his 30 points in the third quarter, when he hit 6 of 7 from the field, including all four of his three-point attempts. Jeff Green scored 15 points and had three steals, James Harden scored 11 and Serge Ibaka had 10 points and six rebounds.

It was the Thunder’s first preseason win in three tries as well as its first home game this season.

“It means a lot – it’s a win,” Westbrook said. “It gives us confidence.”

SEFOLOSHA MAKES DEBUT

Brooks admittedly was a bit worried about Thabo Sefolosha’s conditioning considering the Thunder guard hadn’t received much playing or practice time heading into Monday’s game.

Any concerns Brooks had were addressed within the first two minutes of the game, when Sefolosha had four points, a steal and a rebound.

Sefolosha got up and down the floor with relative ease. He was active on both ends of the floor, which was evident by his two blocks and two steals.

But after dedicating a ton of time into his jump shot this offseason, it was Sefolosha’s 12 points on 5-for-6 shooting that stood out on Monday.

“I want to see that every game now – 5-for-6, 2-for-3,” Brooks said. “No, he has improved. One of the things Thabo worked on all summer back in Switzerland was working on his outside game. He’s a premier defender in this league and he takes pride in his defense but he’s going to improve on the offensive end because he works hard at it. He’s a great weak-side cutter, one of the best on our team, but his outside shooting has improved.”

Sefolosha said that improving his jump shot came down to form and repetition, which in turn gave him more confidence.

“I did a lot of shooting this summer, so hopefully it will pay off this year,” he said. “I really feel good right now so hopefully it stays this way and I stay positive.”

Overtime

  • The Thunder executed in overtime and came away with its first preseason win, a 110-105 victory over the Suns. I"ll have more after media availability.

  • Training camp invitee Mike Harris came off the bench cold and is making a nice impression. He just grabbed a rebound, sprinted the length of the floor and converted a fast-break layup. OKC leads, 107-103.

  • Kyle Weaver and Mike Harris have entered the game for the first time tonight and are on the floor with Ollie, Harden and White for the Thunder. For the Suns, it’s Griffin, Dan Dickau, Alondo Tucker, Carlos Powell and first-round draft pick Earl Clark.

    Fourth Quarter

  • Headed into overtime. The game is tied at 99 after regulation. The Thunder had the ball and a chance to win it with 3.0 seconds left. The ball was inbounded to Shaun Livingston, who leaned into his defender and missed a last-second shot.

  • Exhibit B for why there's no such thing as garbage time in the preseason: the Thunder is close to blowing a double-digit lead with less than two minutes to go here. Its lead is at 99-97 with 1:33 left. You think head coach Scott Brooks doesn't care because the game doesn't count in the standings? Heck no. Like he's said all training camp, you play the game to win, and you play it the right way. Training camp and the preseason is a never-ending learning process. And the manner in which its lead is dwindling tonight - late turnovers, defensive lapses - are some of the same reasons that hurt the Thunder in late-game situations a year ago. There's always something to learn. And the evaluation process never stops, either.

  • Just saw Kevin Ollie drain a jumpe from the foul-line extended on a kick out from Shaun Livingston. I can't tell you how many times I've seen Ollie work on that shot after practice. The veteran guard has been putting up extra shots after nearly every practice, and most of those shots have come form the perimeter. When you work on a shot as often as Ollie, instincts kick in when you find yourself in a similar position during a game.

  • Phoenix rookie Taylor Griffin, an Oklahoma City native and former OU player, has received quite the ovation each time his name is mentioned over the public address system. Really, no surprise there. But it's got to be a good feeling for Griffin.

  • No such thing as garbage time during the preseason. While the Thunder might have a nice lead, and the starters for both teams are on the bench, this is just as critical as any other juncture in the game when it comes to development. Besides, minutes are up for grabs. Rookies are on the floor. Lessons are still to be learned. It’s all very important as the Thunder moves forward. OKC is up, 97-83, with 5:44 left.

  • Serge Ibaka – what more can be said about his potential? He just hit a turnaround jumper for his eighth point of the game. He also has five rebounds, one block and several goaltending calls. He can get up as well as anyone on the floor, if not better than. And it’s surely been a treat for the Ford Center crowd, which is seeing him for the first time in person. The Thunder has a 95-77 lead with 8:37 left in the game. Hardeen, Ollie, White, Livingston and Ibaka are on the floor for OKC.

    Third Quarter

  • A well-played quarter by the Thunder, which didn’t fall off track after the Suns repeatedly attacked its interior defense to start the second half. OKC has a 90-73 lead heading into the fourth quarter. Durant has a game-high 30 points, the Thunder is shooting 54.1% and is winning the rebounding battle, 35-26.

  • Kevin Durant has settled into another one of his shooting zones. Durant has 19 points on 6-for-7 shooting in the third quarter and the Thunder's lead is back up to double digits.

  • The Suns have continued to go inside against the Thunder. And it’s still Amare Stoudemire doing a chunk of the damage. Stoudemire has 10 points in seven third-quarter minutes.

  • The Thunder has a 59-57 lead with 8:08 to go. This is a great opportunity for the Thunder, as both teams have their starting lineups on the floor. Brooks just called a timeout after a Steve Nash jumper.

  • The Suns have gone straight to their big man to start the second half, dumping the ball into Amare Stoudemire in the post on each of the first three possessions. Stoudemire, who had two eye surgeries this offseason for a detached retina and partially torn iris, has been wearing protective goggles during the preseason. It has not, however, stopped him from being aggressive in the paint or attacking the rim.

    Second Quarter

  • With the exception of a three to four minute stretch, this was a very good half for the Thunder, which has a 53-47 lead at the half. Some stats: Sefolosha has made all five of his shots for 12 points while Kevin Durant has 11 points and six rebounds. OKC is shooting 50% from the field and has committed nine turnovers while forcing 13. Brooks has kept true to having Westbrook, Green and Durant on the floor for 30 minutes or so apiece; they’ve each already played at least 15. Let’s see what kind of lineups he goes with in the second half.

  • Thunder got a bit careless on the defensive end. First, it left Channing Frye in the corner for a wide-open, uncontested three-pointer. Then, Jeff Green fouled Jared Dudley on a three-point attempt. Dudley made the basket and missed the free throw, but Amare Stoudemire scored the put back. Brooks wasn’t too happy about it and called a timeout. The Thunder still leads, 45-40, with 2:51 left in the first half. Meanwhile, Sefolosha continues to look good on both ends of the floor. Offensively, he connected on a quick three from the corner.

  • The Thunder started the second quarter with a three-guard lineup that included two point guards in Shaun Livingston and Kevin Ollie as well as rookie James Harden. Three minutes into the second, and it’s just Ollie and Livingston in the backcourt but the Thunder has gone with a smaller lineup thus far to match with the Suns. Sefolosha, White and Ibaka are also on the floor for OKC, giving it a quick, versatile lineup. The Thunder has a 31-24 lead.

    First Quarter

  • The Thunder will take a 29-22 lead into the second quarter. OKC ended the first with Kevin Ollie and James Harden in the backcourt and Jeff Green, D.J. White and Serge Ibaka down low. Green played the entire quarter. Ibaka continued to show his freakish athleticism when he soared through the lane to breakup a Suns’ alley-oop attempt and later block a shot that was called for goal tending. Ibaka was also called for a defensive three-seconds violation in the paint. For all that he does well, there’s still a learning curve with Ibaka. Another observation: Ollie was applying some great pressure on Suns point guard Goran Dragic.

  • James Harden and Serge Ibaka are the first two off the Thunder bench. The Thunder is still up, 22-9.

  • Two great defensive plays: Kevin Durant sprinting down the floor and perfectly timing his jump to swat a Jason Richardson layup attempt. Then there was Russell Westbrook showing off those crazy hops of his when he out-jumped the 6-7 Taylor Griffin, who has four inches on Russell, for a defensive rebound.

  • If Thabo Sefolosha is a bit rusty, it isn’t showing, at least not in the game’s first few minutes. Sefolosha, who is making his preseason debut, already has a steal, assist, rebound and four points in the game’s first two minutes. Head coach Scott Brooks is always talking about getting his players to go with their instincts, and that’s been evident early on with Sefolosha. The Thunder leads, 11-0, with 8:48 to go.

    Pregame Notes

    Just got my first look inside the Thunder’s new locker room. It’s a breathtaking place. First off, the high ceilings, lights and configuration gave off a really strong, positive vibe.

    Kevin Ollie, who has played for 11 franchises, said it’s hands-down the nicest he’s been in. Others are saying it’s the best in the league.

    A few things I noticed that the locker room has this season that it didn’t last year: surround sound, so the players can play their iPods. Rookie James Harden had his going during media availability (Jay Z, ‘Lil Wayne). Forward D.J. White pointed out to me that they now have flat screen televisions, four total; last year, the room only had a projection screen.

  • Now, onto some basketball related news. Thunder head coach Scott Brooks said that Thabo Sefolosha and Etan Thomas will be in the starting lineup tonight. This will be Sefolosha’s first preseason action, while Thomas is filling in for an ill Nenad Krstic.

    Brooks also said that he plans to play Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Jeff Green somewhere each in the 30-minute range.

    That’s it for now. Be sure to check the live blog throughout the game and afterward for a recap and extra notes.


    Live Blogging Tonight's Preseason Game at the Ford Center

    Monday, Oct. 12 -- Yes, that's correct. THUNDER.NBA.COM will be on the scene tonight to provide you with live, up-to-the-minute coverage of the Thunder's preseason game against the Suns at the newly renovated Ford Center.

    Check back periodically (television timeouts are a safe bet) for updates from press row, where I'll be blogging.

    You can expect your first update shortly after media availability ends at 6:15, when we will have spoken to head coach Scott Brooks and a number of players.

    Also, be sure to check back after the game for our wrap-up, including what Brooks and his players have to say.

    Contact Chris Silva