The Oklahoma City Thunder defeated the Dallas Mavericks 100-88 in their seventh annual exhibition game in Tulsa’s BOK Center on Tuesday night.
A sold out mothership saw a healthy Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook put on a shooting clinic against a depleted Mavericks squad that didn’t bother to send their marquee players like Dirk Nowitzki and Deron Williams and though the game was tied at the end of the first quarter and at the half, the Thunder took command in the third quarter and won one for the surrogate home team.
In doing so, the Thunder gave the demographic in the state’s second largest city its annual boost going forward to the 2015-16 NBA regular season.
Durant and Westbrook played two quarters, which was a sight better than Dallas who didn’t bother to send their marquee players to Tulsa. All stars Dirk Nowitzki and Deron Williams were listed as “resting” for the game. To be fair, it’s not unusual for teams to rest players during exhibitions, especially when it comes to the big-name players, but the Thunder are cognizant enough of their fan base to have their big name players play in Tulsa every year, at least when they are healthy.
The fact that the Thunder beat the Mavericks is the greatest statistic this reporter can give to you in this article. If the reader desires more specific statistics on how each player performed it is suggested that they go to the team website or NBA.com for deeper analysis.
This article is more on what the game was to the Tulsa fan because having a sold out arena for the Oklahoma City Thunder is a scathing indictment of the need for the National Basketball Association to allow teams to play regular season games in smaller market towns within their respective region.
As mentioned, the game on Tuesday night was sold out. That is every section was full from the expensive seats all the way to the rafters. It goes without saying the situation is ironic given the fact that Tulsa can’t support a WNBA team or a D-League team, but it would seem to this reporter that at least ONE regular season NBA game would be a huge pile of money for the Thunder and a near guaranteed sellout for the BOK Center.
The exhibition game in Tulsa has been well attended since the Thunder started playing exhibition games here in 2008. The original NBA exhibition that was scheduled in the BOK Center was not going to feature the Thunder, but two other teams.
In all fairness; the Thunder weren’t officially Oklahoma City’s when that game was scheduled, and when the sale was complete and the team switched from the Supersonics brand to the Thunder one team deferred and the Thunder took on the Houston Rockets in their first ever appearance in their home state – in TULSA. Attendance has been growing steadily as the Thunder got better and especially after the finals run the 2012.
Contractual obligations likely forbid what this reporter is suggesting so it is not likely to change anytime in the near future. That said, the NBA is missing out on a huge opportunity to expand its brand to markets that are on the fringe of their territories, like Tulsa and at the InTrust Bank Arena in Wichita, Kansas. Meaningless games where you see a shooting clinic from one team’s stars is one thing, but how awesome would it be for young players to see teams playing for games that COUNT in their home town arenas?
It deserves a second look from the powers-that-be in the NBA’s crystal palace. Until then, the NBA fans will have to wait until mid-October for their next look at the Thunder when they hit town for another exhibition.
The Oklahoma City Thunder open the regular season at home in Chesapeake Energy Arena on October 28th when they host the San Antonio Spurs. The TV broadcasts of the Thunder are on Fox Sports Oklahoma (Cox Channel 27) and on the radio at KAKC 1300 The Buzz.
Single game tickets are available for games at the Chesapeake Energy Arena. Information for that and all things Thunder can be found at the Thunder website at thunder.nba.com