Oklahoma City Thunder fans have a lot to be thankful for now that the 2016 season is underway. Despite Kevin Durant’s shocking departure, Russell Westbrook led the Durant-less team to victory against the Sixers—and did it all in style. Westbrook, now the undisputed leader of the Thunder, posted stats that would be phenomenal for anyone else but which we have come to expect from the flamboyant player: 32 points, nine assists, and 12 rebounds.
The Thunder started off slow, but Westbrook led the way to shut the Sixers out in the fourth quarter, with nine points in the last 4:09. In addition, centers Steven Adams and Enes Kanter took some of the pressure off of Westbrook, scoring 22 points and 17 rebounds. With 103-97 on the board at game’s end, the Thunder welcomed an unexpected if underwhelming victory. Still, Westbrook proved he was up to the task and exuded confidence from the very beginning of the game.
Durant’s Double-Double Not Enough
Although he had a respectable debut night with Golden State, racking up 27 points and 10 rebounds, Kevin Durant was not as lucky as his former teammate. His performance was not enough to hold off the Spurs, who dominated Tuesday’s game. Down by 18 at the half, Golden State was unable to make the necessary defensive stops to halt the Spurs momentum, thanks in no small part to a particularly strong showing from San Antonio’s bench. In contrast, aside from Durant and Steph Curry, the Warriors were a paltry 20 for 50 from the floor.
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Some Warriors fans are already sounding the alarm about KD, suggesting that despite his performance, the former Thunder player is disrupting the team chemistry. The showing was especially disappointing to fans who are used to the record-setting 2015-16 Warriors. Indeed, Draymond Green and Klay both failed to deliver as they bungled lay-ups and poor passing made it impossible for the team to recover. The question will now be how they can win with Durant.
Thunder Faithful Remain Hopeful
On the other hand, Thunder fans are ecstatic about the unexpected blowout. For an MVP like Durant to leave a championship-level team at the height of his powers, despite having another highest caliber player’s support, was unprecedented. But whatever doubts there may have been surrounding Westbrook’s abilities to carry the team, for the moment at least, he has proven that he has what it takes to lead. It seems like Tuesday night was all about exceeding—or undershooting expectations.
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