In Sunday’s debut for their new fans, the Oklahoma City Thunder earned their first home win and first victory since moving from Seattle.
Getting a second victory and a second win in their new home could prove a stout challenge Wednesday against the defending NBA champions, the Boston Celtics.
Westbrook finished with 14 points off the bench, and Kevin Durant’s 18 led the way. Nick Collison added 10 points and 10 rebounds for the first double-double for the relocated team. The Thunder also held Minnesota to two points over the final five minutes.
Oklahoma City’s continued defensive improvement has proven helpful to a franchise that finished 20-62 last season and hasn’t won more than 35 games since 2004-05.
The former Seattle SuperSonics gave up 106.3 points per game last season, but none of Oklahoma City’s first three opponents have reached triple digits, averaging 90.7 points.
The Thunder, though, have struggled offensively, scoring 84 points per game this year compared with 97.5 in 2007-08. For the second consecutive season, Durant leads the team in scoring with 18.7 points per game. Last year’s Rookie of the Year scored 20.3 points per game, including an average of 20.5 points in two games against the Celtics.
“We’re going to have to be scrappy to win games,” Westbrook said.
Being scrappy may not be enough against the Celtics.
Boston (3-1) rebounded from a season-low 79 points in a loss Saturday at Indiana with a season high for points in a 103-99 victory Tuesday at Houston. The Celtics also shot a season-worst 34.6 percent from the field against the Pacers but made 51.6 percent of their shots against the Rockets.
“Definitely, it was a great win,” Boston guard Rajon Rondo said. “We bounced back after our loss and executed down the stretch and got stops on defense.”
All of Boston’s starters finished in double figures, and Ray Allen—a former SuperSonic—led the way with 29 points on 11-of-15 shooting. It was a welcome relief for the Celtics guard, who shot 36.7 percent (11 of 30) from the field in the first three games.
“We needed to come out here and do the things we do that make us successful,” Allen said.
Allen won both meetings last season against the team which he played for from 2003-04 to 2006-07 before leaving for the Celtics. Boston only needed 28 points from him in winning by an average of 18.5 points in those games.
While the Thunder’s defense seems to be improving, the Celtics have also been excellent in the early season. Boston is allowing opponents to shoot only 37.8 percent—second in the NBA—after leading the league with a 41.9 percentage last season.
Boston is playing its first road game against the West after going 11-4 in those contests last season.