OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The Oklahoma City Thunder needed a big defensive stand to hold off Melbourne United.
Josh Huestis had two massive blocked shots in the final seconds to help the star-studded Thunder escape with an 86-85 exhibition victory Sunday.
Huestis blocked Josh Boone’s shot out of bounds, then blocked Casey Prather’s shot to clinch the win.
Melbourne coach Dean Vickerman said he was proud of the way his team played against the All-Star trio of Russell Westbrook, Paul George and Carmelo Anthony. Melbourne withstood a run by the Thunder with their stars in the game in the third quarter and made it competitive down the stretch.
“I felt coming into the half that they were really going to try to make a run with their best group,” Vickerman said. “We weathered that storm, and they had to keep some of those best players coming back to win the game.”
Casper Ware Jr. scored 20 points, Boone added 15 and Prather had 11 points and 10 rebounds for Melbourne, a member of the Australia and New Zealand-based National Basketball League.
Melbourne, an Australian team, also was up against a time adjustment.
“I know most of the guys couldn’t really get a good sleeping pattern, including myself,” Prather said. “My legs are a bit fatigued, but once you come to a game like this, you know all the adrenaline going and the energy to get going, so you know, we really don’t feel it too much.”
Oklahoma City’s stars shot poorly. George had 22 points on 5-for-17 shooting, Anthony scored 19 points on 6-for-19 shooting and Westbrook was limited to nine points, going 3 for 10.
“I was pretty impressed by the statistics that we held some people to,” Vickerman said. “For us, because we’re a little bit smaller, we try to fight through everything, and I guess that maintained some pressure on them rather than when you switch, there’s a little more separation.”
Ware made a 3-pointer to tie the score at 80 but the Thunder responded with a 6-0 run that gave them the cushion to hold on.
“To have the opportunity to play one of the best teams in the world and to know that our league can challenge those best teams in the world — it does a lot for our reputation in the league and it does a lot for our club’s reputation,” Vickerman said.
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