TULSA — Dallas’ two best players, Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis, were both being rested by coach Rick Carlisle, surely making it easier for Oklahoma City to gain its 119-104 preseason opening victory inside BOK Center Tuesday night.
Still, viewed through a Thunder-centric prism, what Oklahoma City did its ownself, independent of who the Mavericks put he floor, offered plenty to be pleased about.
For one, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander backed up his big Blue and White Scrimmage with a bigger preseason opener, turning 26 minutes into a smooth and efficient 24 points.
For two, first-round draft pick Darius Bazley played plenty and appeared to be playing anything but his very first NBA preseason game and his first organized game in more than a year.
For three, the Thunder shot well and really well through a half and three quarters.
For four, the rotation players, mostly sitting out the fourth quarter, appeared to enjoy nothing more than the success their teammates on the floor were enjoying in the fourth quarter.
“The sprit was right and the ball was moving,” said Chris Paul, who started alongside fellow point guards Gilgeous-Alexander and Dennis Schroder. “When you practice like that, you always wonder if it will translate to the game and it did.”
Gilgeous-Alexander scored his two dozen points on a dozen shots, making seven of them, while finishing 4 of 8 from 3-point land and 6 of 7 from the free-throw line.
He dished only a single assist, though the Thunder finished with a healthy 26 on 41 made baskets.
“There’s a lot of things we can build off of tonight,” OKC coach Billy Donovan said. “We scored 116 points, we turned it over 20 times, didn’t shoot well from the free-throw line, we got there 35 times.”
The Thunder actually turned it over 19 times and made 23 of 35 free throws.
They shot well from the field, making 53.2 percent (41 of 77) overall and 50 percent (14 of 28) from beyond the 3-point arc, yet those numbers were 58.3 percent (35 of 60) and 58.9 percent (11 of 19) after 36 minutes and 63.4 percent (26 of 41) and 61.5 percent (8 of 13) at the half.
Bazley’s first entry into the stat book was a drive toward the basket that appeared to be a case of over dribbling, yet becoming trapped along the baseline, he calmly found a slashing Terrance Ferguson, who slammed it home.
He played 21 minutes, finished with nine points on 4 of 7 shooting, grabbed six rebounds and enjoyed the best plus-minus of anybody on either team, the Thunder scoring 16 more points than the Mavs while he was on the floor.
“DB is a confident kid,” Gilgeous Alexander said. “He works really hard so he has the right to be. But the thing with him is just keeping his head straight, trying to keep him focused.”
He appeared focused Tuesday.
Paul only played 17 minutes, finishing with six points and four assists, three of them to Steven Adams — who finished with 17 points — in the first half of the first quarter.
Danilo Galinari also played 17 minutes, nearly netting a double-double, 10 points and nine rebounds, all the points and all but one of the boards coming in the first half.
Schroder was very good, making 5 of 6 shots, finishing with 12 points and a co-game high — along with Dallas’ Jalen Brunson — five assists. After Bazley’s plus 16, Schroder was next at plus 12.
Justin Jackson and Maxi Klieber both netted 14 points for the Mavs. Brunson added 10.
At the very end, when OKC’s bench was on the floor and its starters and early subs on the bench, everybody was having a good time.
Paul came back to the same word he’d used earlier.
“The sprit has been right,” he said. “The practices have been hard, they’ve been competitive, guys cheer for one another.”