Melbourne United gives new-look OKC Thunder a scare

Melbourne United gives new-look OKC Thunder a scare

The OKC Thunder narrowly edged out Melbourne United 86-85 in a pre-season game.

Though they won the offseason, the OKC Thunder still have their work cut out for them. With new additions Paul George and Carmelo Anthony, you’d think OKC would be near unstoppable. On paper, that might seem like the case. In practice, things can turn out differently. Case in point would be the Thunder’s pre-season match against Melbourne United. Despite clearly having an advantage, OKC only managed to win 86-85.

Offense still centered around Brodie

Most of the assessment concerning this new-look OKC Thunder involved the teams offense. The offseason moves that brought George and Anthony were seen as great for Russell Westbrook. Theoretically, these two would help ease the pressure off of Russ on offense. The problem though is that they’re from familiar with coach Billy Donovan’s system. In the first quarter versus Melbourne United, the Thunder still relied on Westbrook to initiate the offense. As a result, Melbourne managed to finish the quarter with a surprising 30-27 lead.

Things improved in the second quarter for Carmelo Anthony as he gradually found his rhythm. Despite his struggles, OKC made sure to give Melo the touches he needed to get going. Having made his mark in the first quarter, Westbrook was all to willing to play off the ball. It also helped that Paul George started the quarter resting on the bench. With the offense centered around him, Melo was now in attack mode. Thanks to this adjustment, the OKC Thunder now found themselves up by 5, 49-44, at the end of the half.

Melbourne United tries to mount a comeback

As the second half started, OKC continued to dominate the ballgame. Again, Russell Westbrook made a conscious decision to defer in favor of George and Anthony. Realizing this, Melbourne United tried to mount a comeback. Tai Wesley started things off for the visitors with a 3-pointer to open the 3rd quarter. Andre Dawkins also helped out for United as he scored all 8 of his points in the third period. Unfortunately, Melbourne United only cut down OKC’s lead to 4, 70-66 at the end of the quarter.

The Aussies’ strong 4th quarter falls short

Things got really interesting in the fourth quarter when Melbourne United started slowing the game down. With coach Billy Donovan opting to sit out Russell Westbrook, it looked like United had a chance. Casper Ware finally got hot for the visitors as he 3 3-pointers in the quarter. His last 3 with 2:25 left in the clock cut down OKC’s lead to 3, 86-83. With that said, OKC refused to back down from the Aussies’ challenge. Paul George and Steven Adams both did a fine job on the defensive end of the floor. George used his length to bother Melbourne’s perimeter players while Adams was a looming presence near the basket. It also didn’t help that Ware committed a key turnover with 47.1 left in the game clock and OKC up by 1. A hook shot by Josh Boone also could’ve won the game for Melbourne. However, John Huestis promptly blocked that shot to give OKC the 86-85 win.

Can OKC really dethrone the Warriors?

Based on their performance against Melbourne, it would seem like OKC isn’t that good. However, it’s also important to note that Russell Westbrook also wasn’t playing seriously. No offense to Melbourne United but the OKC team they faced won’t be the OKC team we’ll see when the season starts. Of course, this isn’t to say that the Thunder can now beat the Warriors. I feel like this team still has a way to go before they can contend. Carmelo Anthony and Paul George obviously need the ball in their hands a lot. Westbrook does too. It’s going to be interesting how Billy Donovan integrates his All Stars’ strengths without compromising their games.

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