Life without Durant begins for OKC with loss in Spain
MADRID (AP) Life without Kevin Durant began for the Oklahoma City Thunder with a 142-137 overtime loss to Real Madrid in its first preseason game in Spain on Monday.
Thunder's revamped team was in control for the first three quarters but allowed the nine-time Euroleague champion to rally for the victory in front of a raucous local crowd in the Spanish capital.
Russell Westbrook, newcomer Victor Oladipo and forward Enes Kanter led the way for the Thunder in the team's first game since Durant's departure.
Westbrook had 18 points from 22 minutes, Oladipo added 34 points and five assists from 33 minutes and Kanter had 29 points and 10 rebounds from 33 minutes.
Real Madrid trailed by as much as 22 points but was able to send the game into overtime with a three-pointer by Sergio Llull at the buzzer, then pulled away in the final minute of overtime. Llull had five of the 20 threes scored by the hosts. Guard Jaycee Carroll led Madrid with 24 points, two more than Llull.
''The first half we played a really good game, we played with that identity that we were looking to create,'' Thunder coach Billy Donovan said. ''But clearly our defense in the second half was not where it needed to be. But we got a chance to play a lot of young guys, a lot of new guys. I feel like this is going to be a great opportunity for our team to really look at this game and really grow from it.''
The Thunder made their fourth Western Conference finals appearance in six years last season but Durant, who played eight seasons in Oklahoma, left in July to join the Golden State Warriors as a free agent. Serge Ibaka also departed in a trade to the Orlando Magic on draft night, leaving Westbrook in charge of leading a group of new faces.
''We definitely have a lot of new faces. We have some things to learn, obviously, some different thinks to pick up on, but we will get there. Right now it's preseason, we are trying to make sure we are clicking when the regular season starts,'' Westbrook said. ''I thought we did a good job tonight, trying to figure out what's best for us to move forward. We've got some things to learn, but I'm looking forward to good things out of our team.''
Westbrook played only in the first and third quarters and finished 7 for 14 from the field.
Oladipo seemed to fit in nicely in his new team, doing a good job controlling the game along with Westbrook.
He was one of the players traded for Ibaka, along with forward Ersan Ilyasova and draft pick Domantas Sabonis, a move intended to improve the team's depth and shore up its inconsistent shooting guard position. Oladipo finished 14 for 24 from the field.
''Just to be here in general is a great opportunity for me,'' the 24-year-old Oladipo said. ''I'm truly thankful to be here and to be able to wear this jersey. I'm going to make the most of this situation and the opportunity. I've still got a lot of room to grow, a lot of room to get better. It was only the first game of the year, so a lot of room to improve and I'm looking forward to doing that.''
The Thunder arrived in Spain with coach Donovan saying the overseas trip would be crucial to help his new group of players bond ahead of the new season.
In addition to playing Real Madrid, the Thunder will also face 18-time Spanish League champion and two-time Euroleague champion FC Barcelona Lassa on Wednesday in Barcelona.
The Thunder then return to the U.S. to play four preseason games in October. They start their season at the Philadelphia 76ers on Oct. 26.
Durant will be back in Oklahoma City with Golden State's jersey on Feb. 11.
Also part of NBA Global Games 2016, the Houston Rockets and New Orleans Pelicans will face each other in preseason games in Shanghai and Beijing on Oct. 9 and Oct. 12.
Tales Azzoni on Twitter: http://twitter.com/tazzoni. His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/tales-azzoni