Played in front of 21,000 Montreal fans, Thursday’s preseason game left a lasting impact on the Oklahoma City Thunder.
In their 128-125 loss to the Detroit Pistons, the Thunder were impressed by the environment the Montreal crowd provided at Bell Centre. Lu Dort certainly felt it the most: The preseason outing marked his homecoming. It was the first organized game he had played in Montreal since high school.
An offer for Thunder fans
The Thunder recognized how special a moment it was for Dort, so they fed him the ball early to give the crowd something to cheer for. To Dort’s credit, he was fantastic in the loss. He finished with a game-high 24 points on 8-of-12 shooting, 5-of-9 shooting from 3 and four rebounds in 24 minutes
“All four (of his teammates) were taking care of their boy,” Thunder head coach Mark Daigneault joked about Dort’s performance. “It was pretty cool to see. … I do think it speaks to the team orientation of this particular group.”
Following the game, fellow Canadian Shai Gilgeous-Alexander — sporting a hockey jersey — said he was dazzled by the animated crowd that made a preseason game feel like an NBA playoffs game. He campaigned for Montreal to receive an NBA team and give Canada two of their own once more.
“(The environment) was good. I haven’t been here in so long so I didn’t know what to expect really,” Gilgeous-Alexander said. “It definitely felt like it was a real NBA game. The NBA should put a team here.”
Expansion talks have ramped up the last few years; the NBA could add two more teams in the not too distant future. The two cities often mentioned as destinations are Seattle and Las Vegas. Perhaps it’s time to add Montreal to that list as the locals clearly showed a love for NBA basketball.