Kevin Durant flirted with a triple-double, Reggie Jackson led all scorers with 29 points and the Oklahoma City Thunder topped the Philadelphia 76ers, 103-99, in their preseason matchup in Manchester on Tuesday afternoon.
The Thunder shot 43.5 percent from the floor and held the 76ers, who got 20 points from Tony Wroten, to 41.5 percent shooting
Let's go through some of Oklahoma City's keys from Tuesday's game, some good, some bad.
Durant, Durant, Durant
What can we really say about Durant at this point? The guy is incredible.
KD scored 21 points (14 in the third quarter alone), handed out 12 assists and grabbed eight rebounds in 33 minutes of action. He got off to a rather slow start shooting the basketball, as he was only 3-of-10 at the half, but he still did an incredible job getting his teammates involved and keeping everything relatively under control during some helter-skelter moments early on.
Durant then had one of his typical explosions in the third period, going 6-of-8 from the floor and picking up five dimes. He took over the game, putting the Thunder up by 11 before going to the bench for the fourth quarter.
You had to like Durant's mindset in this one. He understood that Russell Westbrook is not on the floor, so he did everything he could to get his teammates easy looks to get them going. Considering Westbrook will miss the first 4-6 weeks of the season, you have to hope that this is a mentality that carries over into the season opener and beyond for KD.
A nearly flawless performance by Jackson
Again, Jackson led all scorers with 29 points, shooting 10-of-17 from the floor and hitting all eight of his free throws. He only shot 1-of-6 from downtown, but that's not his game.
Perhaps the most eye-opening aspect of Jackson's performance on Tuesday is the fact that he handed out eight assists and only accumulated one turnover. He looked incredibly composed at all times, especially late in the game with Durant on the bench. The contest was in the balance, and Jackson took matters into his own hands by taking complete control of the offense and even barking commands to his teammates.
He really is like a poor man's Westbrook out there. He plays almost the exact same way as Russell, displaying absolutely no fear and utilizing his athleticism to get where he needs to go. Plus, he has quite a fine mid-range game, also akin to Westbrook.
How about Steven Adams and Perry Jones?
Both Steven Adams and Perry Jones came through with solid contributions, with Adams scoring six points and pulling down four rebounds in 17 minutes and Jones putting in seven points and five boards in 24 minutes.
What was most impressive about Adams was his soft touch around the rim. He also demonstrated very good hands, in stark contrast to Kendrick Perkins who is known for fumbling the basketball around in the post. Adams still has a ways to go and is undeniably raw, but he is further along than I expected he would be at this point.
Jones also looked good, making a nice cut toward the basket and ultimately receiving a feed from Durant for a flush and knocking down a triple. He played some solid defense, too. Perhaps the second-year man out of Baylor is prepared to contribute?
Jeremy Lamb could use some work
Jeremy Lamb was fine defensively, displaying good instincts on the perimeter and flashing an outstanding block against the backboard in transition. Still, his offensive game could use a lot of work.
Hopefully we can just chalk it up to an "off" night, but Lamb went 2-of-12 from the floor, shooting 0-of-8 from beyond the arc with two airballs. You have to respect the fact that he had enough confidence to keep shooting despite all of his misses, but how much confidence did he have in his actual shot?
The good news is, Lamb was a good shooter at UConn and showed that he is not afraid of the big moment during Connecticut's national title run in 2011. Still, this is the NBA, and the stakes are obviously higher.
Of course, Lamb is very young and inexperienced, so a more sound approach offensively should come over time. It's not a talent problem; the kid has some fine tools.
OKC needs better outside shooting
The Thunder shot only 6-of-27 from deep in this one, an obviously ugly clip. The problem is, OKC doesn't really have any proven outside shooters other than Durant (and Derek Fisher, if you want to count him). Jackson isn't much of a threat from there, Lamb is clearly still learning and Westbrook has never been much fo a three-point shooter, either.
Is this a problem that is going to persist for Oklahoma City all year? If so, then GM Sam Presti needs to adjust accordingly and go out and make a move. You can't live and die by the three, but you also can't live without the three, either. Just ask the 2013 Memphis Grizzlies.
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