The Big Picture
OKC fell behind early in its second regular season matchup as Houston’s offense fired on all cylinders shooting 50 percent or better from the field through all four frames. Despite a boost from Kenrich Williams and the second unit who logged a total of 56 points, the Thunder dropped the game 124 to 91 on Friday and will take the lessons into its home opener against Philadelphia on Sunday.
Moments from the 48
Kenny Hustle’s Impact Houston rookie Jaylen Green attacked the left wing with big intentions toward the basket. Waiting for him outside of the restricted area was the Thunder’s Kenrich Williams who stepped in front to take a charge and eliminate the possible two points for Houston. This was the kind of night the Thunder received from Williams.
In addition to the 12 points Williams chipped in off the bench, the fourth-year wing also snagged four rebounds, dished out three assists and sacrificed his body to draw two offensive fouls on the defensive end.
“That’s who K-Rich is,” said Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. “All of the little plays, he makes and that’s a skill of his for sure. That doesn’t go unnoticed on our team, every day that’s the value he brings to our team, and we expect him to do that every night.”
“He played himself to exhaustion,” said Thunder head coach Mark Daigneault. “He really set a tone for us in terms of competitiveness and competitive spirit. He was a bright spot for us tonight.”
Boost from the Bench While Wiliams brought a boost in the first half, it was Mike Muscala who added some fuel for OKC in the second as he checked in and added 13 points in the frame after not playing in the Thunder’s first 24 minutes. The veteran big man went 5 for 6 from the field including 2-of-3 from behind the arc. Between Muscala, Williams and Aleksej Pokuševski’s 10 points, the Thunder’s second unit outscored Houston’s 56 to 47.
“Just play hard,” said Muscala on his mentality coming into the game while trying to change momentum. “Obviously it was a tough game tonight. Just keep it simple and it starts on defense.”
The Thunder’s Biggest Takeaways With every game comes another learning opportunity for the young Thunder to build upon as the season continues. Against Houston, the Thunder’s biggest takeaway was on the defensive end and the physicality required for 48 minutes to cause disruption and get stops. The Rocket’s early offensive momentum spurred their consistent scoring throughout the game which was a lesson for the young Thunder about the importance of setting a tone early on the defensive end to eliminate playing an uphill battle.
“[Houston] came out really aggressive, great rhythm which is a credit to them for how they came out of the gates,” said Thunder head coach Mark Daigneault. “You have to use physicality and you’ve got to use a team mentality to slow that down. I didn’t think we did a good enough job of that.”
“The first five minutes of each half is the most important,” said Williams. “If you let a team see the ball go through the net, the rim looks huge. You really want to lock in and make it hard on your opponent.”
The Last Word
Mike Muscala on the Thunder’s regular season home opener on Sunday“It’ll be great to have the energy at Paycom Center. We have to come out ready to play on Sunday. It’s a big game for us. We have to come out with a sense of urgency and more competitive toughness.”Shai Gilgeous-Alexander on turning the page“We’ve got to learn the lessons from this one, look in the mirror and try to be better for the next game. That’s all we can do.”
After two games on the road, the Thunder will return to Oklahoma City for its regular season home opener at Paycom Center. OKC will have a day off on Saturday before hosting the Philadelphia 76ers on Sunday at 6 p.m. CT.
“I’m looking forward to it,” said Williams about playing in front of Thunder fans on Sunday. “Getting a chance to play in front of the home crowd. I know the fans are ready to see some basketball so I’m really looking forward to it.”