TULSA, OK—The Oklahoma City Thunder made its annual trip to Tulsa on Thursday night to take on the New Orleans Pelicans in NBA Exhibition competition. 17,778 fans packed the BOK Center to watch a very tight game came down to the final 30 seconds.
Pelicans guard Brian Roberts, who scored 12 of his 14 points in the second half dropped in a jumper with 30.6 seconds on the clock, after Thunder guard Reggie Jackson gave the Thunder a 102-101 lead. New Orleans added two foul shots from forward Anthony Davis and that was enough to seal the game for the visitors.
Oklahoma City star forward Kevin Durant had a slow start in game, starting 4-for-12 from the field in the first two quarters. He found his range in the 3rd Quarter starting off with a sweet three pointer. In all Durant played 32 minutes and scored 25 points, 13 of those points coming in the third, and leading all scorers in the game.
While Durant was clearly carrying the load for Oklahoma City on Thursday night the help of his #1 supporting teammate Russell Westbrook was obvious.
Before the Thunder began their preseason earlier this month Westbrook was discovered to have swelling in his right knee related to his April meniscus surgery, and after having arthroscopic surgery on October 1 it was announced that the 6th year point guard from UCLA would miss the preseason and 4-6 weeks of the NBA regular season. Also sitting out with injury was center Kendrick Perkins who was listed as day-to-day with a dislocated finger.
Serge Ibaka and Ryan Gomes scored 11 and Reggie Jackson and former Tulsa 66er Jeremy Lamb scored 12 points. Jackson also added 9 assists. For New Orleans guard Eric Gordon was the high scorers with Anthony Davis and Ryan Anderson.
Steve Adams, the Thunder’s first round pick in the 2013 NBA draft had an excellent outing in front of what will very likely be his home crowd. The 7-foot rookie from the University of Pittsburgh scored 10 points and nabbed 15 rebounds, 9 off the defensive glass. The high rebounder for the Pelicans in the game was Al-Farouq Aminu, how had 10 rebounds, with 6 on defense.
The Thunder decided to test their 3-point shooting prowess on Thursday night, connecting on 9 of 12 from long range and that helped Oklahoma City take the lead 56-52 at the break. Altogether the Thunder went 12-for-23 (52%) from behind the 3-point arc in the game. They were also a near perfect 90% at the foul line with Kevin Durant sinking six shots on nine trips.
The Oklahoma City Thunder now have a 3-2 record in the BOK Center since they began making their annual trips to Tulsa in 2008. They defeated the Houston Rockets in the inaugural NBA exhibition game played in the arena 110-104. In 2009 they beat the Miami Heat, their 2012 NBA Finals opponent 96-91 in 2009, and last year they topped the Phoenix Suns 107-97 and set the arena’s attendance record.
In fact, attendance has increased steadily in the five years that Oklahoma City has made Tulsa a stop on their preseason schedule. 2008’s game against the Rockets drew 9,549, and 2012’s game against the Suns drew 18,233. Thursday’s game was announced as a sellout at 17,778 but it was less than last year’s attendance and arena record of 18,233. The reason for the reduction of the number termed as a sellout is the renovation of the center section of the arena’s upper bowl into premium “sky lofts”, which resulted in the removal of a little more than 450 seats.
A capacity crowd for the Thunder in the Chesapeake Energy Arena is listed at 18,203, and to date every game in Oklahoma City since the team moved from Seattle in 2007 has been a sellout. Prior to the transfer of the Supersonics the Chesapeake Arena was the temporary home of the New Orleans Hornets, who were forced to relocate to OKC after Hurricane Katrina damaged the New Orleans Arena in 2005.
The Oklahoma City/New Orleans Hornets sold out every game during the two-year relocation and set the stage for the NBA to gain interest in Oklahoma City as a viable NBA host city.
Several Tulsa based Thunder fans in the audience hoped that a second straight selloutin the BOK Center might result in a possible neutral-site regular season NBA game coming to Tulsa in the future, though that seems a very remote possibility due to NBA regulations.
Looking ahead, the Thunder hope to regroup after Thursday’s loss when they return to the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City for a preseason game with the Utah Jazz on Tuesday, October 20th. From there it’s on to Phoenix to take on the Suns next Thursday. The Thunder will wrap up its exhibition schedule a day later in Wichita when they take on the Chicago Bulls.
Oklahoma City will open the 2013-14 NBA season on the road against Utah on October 30th, with their home opener set for November 3rd in the Chesapeake Energy Arena. In Tulsa, the Thunder can be seen on TV on Fox Sports Oklahoma (Cox Cable channel 27).