I think it’s fair to say that there was a great deal of trepidation going into the home opener, given the Thunder’s depleted state and the rumors that Reggie Jackson, at least, would be back tonight. He wasn’t. (I refuse to believe that this has anything to do with his newly-established restricted free-agent status.) And then things … happened. OKC held Denver to 17 points in the first quarter, 16 in the second, and sat on a 20-point lead after the third. The Nuggets, of course, didn’t go away, and their relatively fresh bench ran off eight consecutive points before Kendrick Perkins (!) knocked down a basket. And then another. If you ask me, Perk is relishing his new role as a reserve: he’s getting just as many minutes, what with all the injuries, and he’s doing a whole lot more than just watching the post. With 3:19 left, the Nuggets had shaved that 20-point lead down to a mere three; but the Thunder weren’t going to let this one get away. A 12-6 OKC run left Denver in a nine-point hole with 18 seconds left, and two Nuggets possessions produced no points. Final: Oklahoma City 102, Denver 91.
Pretty much everyone’s line looked good tonight: five of eight players in double figures, and of the three who didn’t, Nick Collison and Andre Roberson outrebounded everyone else on the court (Roberson 8, Collison 7), and Sebastian Telfair, despite five fouls, served up nine assists, also a game high. Serge Ibaka and Perry Jones both knocked down 23 points this gives PJIII 55 in two nights and Perk had 17. When’s the last time Perk had double figures? (The 5th of January, against the Celtics, when he had 12; it was his only double-digit performance of the year. I tell you, he likes coming off the bench.)
As could have been expected, the primary Nuggets threats were Ty Lawson and Arron Afflalo, who had 25 and 14 points respectively, a lot of those coming in the 35-point fourth quarter. (Timofey Mozgov, not a factor in the fourth, garnered 19 points early.) But if you want a Telltale Statistic, you can’t do better than this: six Denver reserves scored 23 points (JaVale McGee led with 8), but three OKC benchmen that’s all there were scored 31.
Now comes another faraway back-to-back: Brooklyn on Monday, Toronto on Tuesday. No one was injured tonight, so maybe we’ll have nine players for one of those. Just don’t expect any high-fives from Russell Westbrook, who had hand surgery today and who will be, they say, reevaluated in four weeks.