Making his first start in nearly a year, Nerlens Noel scored 20 points and added 15 rebounds to help the Oklahoma City Thunder pick up their first win of the season, 117-110 over the visiting Phoenix Suns on Sunday night.
Noel’s addition to the lineup was a late one, as Steven Adams was scratched shortly before the game after experiencing left calf tightness in warmups.
Noel’s last start came Nov. 3, 2017, for the Dallas Mavericks. He produced his first 20-point game since Feb. 19, 2016.
Phoenix’s depth — already stretched thin with the hamstring injury that kept leading scorer Devin Booker out of his second consecutive game — took an additional hit early. Starting point guard Isaiah Canaan sprained his left ankle after playing just five minutes and missed the rest of the game.
With Canaan out, rookie Elie Okobo played a season-high 30 minutes and tied for the team high with 18 points. TJ Warren also had 18 points.
The Thunder took over the game at the end of the first quarter, finishing with a 16-3 run to build a 10-point lead.
Entering the game as the worst-shooting team in the NBA, the Thunder got right offensively against the Suns, shooting 50.6 percent from the floor and nearly 60 percent from inside the 3-point arc.
Thunder forward Paul George, who scored 23 points, hit a buzzer-beater from just beyond midcourt to end the third period.
Russell Westbrook also scored 23 for Oklahoma City (1-4), shooting 8 of 13 and adding nine rebounds and seven assists.
Rookie Deandre Ayton had 16 points and 11 rebounds for the Suns (1-5), posting his fourth double-double in six games.
Oklahoma City rookie shooting guard Hamidou Diallo, who had averaged 14.5 minutes through the first four games, was inactive after missing the team’s walkthrough earlier in the day.
The Thunder host the Los Angeles Clippers on Thursday. Phoenix, which has dropped five consecutive games, start a five-game homestand Wednesday against the San Antonio Spurs.
—Field Level Media