Threes, monster dunks: Thunder’s Terrance Ferguson announces his presence with authority

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LOS ANGELES — When Terrence Ferguson was young, he said he grew out braids so he could look like Carmelo Anthony.

Wednesday night Anthony was right there, leaping off the bench with each play bigger than the last, cheering Furguson’s breakout game. OKC’s bench went nuts for the rookie all game.

“There’s nothing like that,” Anthony said of Ferguson’s big night in a blowout win over the Lakers. “There’s no better feeling than that. Knowing how much hard work those guys put in, knowing how hard it is to get minutes in this league.”

All season long,  Furguson’s burn has been limited as he’s been in and out of the Thunder lineup, racking up just 155 minutes total across 22 games. As recently as five days ago was sent down to Oklahoma City’s G-League team so he could get some minutes.

However, with Andre Roberson out Wednesday night in Los Angeles (left knee tendinitis), Furguson got tapped for his first NBA start and then had the game of his life — 24 points on 9-of-12 shooting, six threes and a couple of dunks that had the Staples Center crowd oohing and ahhing.

“You’re in Staples Center, world famous place. You’ve gotta do something amazing,” Ferguson said.

Get that man in the dunk contest — it’s in Staples Center this year, too.

The dunks were impressive, but the threes were bigger — Ferguson was 2-of-16 from three heading into this game, but he was 6-of-9 against the Lakers (who have been terrible on closeouts, letting Ferguson set his feet and get comfortable).

“It looked like an ocean,” Ferguson said of the basket in the second half. “Like throwing a pebble in the ocean. It felt good.”

If you didn’t know who Ferguson was before tonight, you could join a lot of fans in that camp. An athletic wing who had offers from Kansas, North Carolina, and Arizona (among others), he decided to get paid to play overseas in Australia rather than play college ball stateside. He played for a year against men, learned how to be a professional, and while he probably slid down the draft board because of it (the Thunder got him at No. 21) it helped prepare him for life in the NBA.

“I was really happy for him,” Thunder coach Billy Donovan said. “He’s worked really hard, and I think he’s got a very bright future.”

Paul George paid him the biggest compliment of the night.

“The kid is really good, and he reminds me of myself a lot early on in the league, just a sponge trying to take everything in,” George said. “He’s special. He’s a special weapon and a special talent.”

One we could be seeing a lot more of in the near future.