Oklahoma City looks to move to 2-0 for the second straight season by beating the Pistons, who are trying to avoid their worst start in 11 years in their home opener.
The Thunder won 91-83 at Detroit on Oct. 30, as Kevin Durant(notes) scored 11 of his 25 points in the fourth quarter and grabbed 12 rebounds. The victory snapped the Oklahoma City franchise’s five-game road skid in the series.
The game was indicative of how each team’s season would go. While Oklahoma City posted 50 wins and earned the franchise’s first postseason berth since 2004-05, Detroit finished 27-55 and out of the playoffs for the first time in nine years.
The Pistons didn’t look like a team poised to improve in Wednesday’s season opener, falling 101-98 at New Jersey after leading by seven with 1:40 left.
“This is definitely one of those games we just couldn’t finish,” said forward Charlie Villanueva(notes), who missed a potential tying 3-pointer with two seconds left and matched Tayshaun Prince(notes) and Rodney Stuckey(notes) with a team-high 14 points. “… We had to win that game. We just didn’t do the things down the stretch to win that game.”
Coach John Kuester’s team will need to be better defensively after giving up 62 second-half points. The Pistons, whose 99.1 points allowed last season was their highest average since 1999-2000, face a major challenge in stopping Durant and point guard Russell Westbrook(notes).
Durant, who averaged a league-high 30.1 points last season, scored 30 while Westbrook added 28 and team highs of 10 rebounds and six assists in a 106-95 victory over Chicago on Wednesday.
The two players combined to go 23 of 26 from the foul line.
“It’s all about us being aggressive,” Durant said. “We’re an aggressive, athletic, quick team and getting to the rim is one of our strong points. We’ve got to continue to get there.”
Thunder coach Scott Brooks also wants to see continued defensive pressure. Oklahoma City, which held opponents to 44.8 percent shooting in 2009-10 and gave up 5.1 fewer points per game than in the previous season, went through some of their defensive sets during a brief Thursday morning practice.
“We did a few things defensively on what we expect (the Pistons) to do offensively and hopefully we come out with a great game,” Brooks told the Thunder’s official website.
The Pistons last opened with two defeats in 1999-2000, when they started 0-4.
The Oklahoma City franchise has won three straight versus Detroit after dropping the previous eight matchups.