Summer League Recap: Thunder vs. Philadelphia 76ers

By Nick Gallo | Thunder Basketball Writer |

In Summer League, the results teams are looking for aren’t necessarily the ones on the scoreboard when the final buzzer sounds, but rather the details of how their players performed as individuals and as a group during the flow of the game.

The Thunder dropped its second Summer League game on Sunday evening in an 84-73 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers, but as the team gets a baseline read on where each player is heading into the summer, games like today’s are of the utmost importance. Newly named Thunder assistant coach and former Tulsa 66ers Head Coach Darko Rajakovic is helming the Summer League squad this year and was pleased by the effort and intensity he saw out of his team tonight.

“We competed every possession,” Rajakovic said. “This game was very important for us to bring that mentality and everything we asked our guys to do, they did a majority of that stuff. This was a big step for us forward in building what we want to achieve this summer, and that’s to get those guys better.”

While Mario Little paced the Thunder with 18 points on Sunday, it was the dirty work of players like Josh Huestis, Steven Adams, Andre Roberson, Perry Jones and Semaje Christon that stood out most to Rajakovic and the rest of the coaching staff. The Thunder forced multiple shot clock violations, caused turnovers and managed to make this one a single-digit game with less than three minutes remaining despite shooting just 37.3 percent from the field.

“We were just keep willing to work hard with what coach is telling us, the game plan, sticking with the fundamentals and playing as a team,” Roberson said. “Overall we felt like we did a great job of getting better, not only as individuals, but as a team playing together.”

The Thunder’s next chance to improve comes on Monday, with a tilt at 6:00 p.m. CT against the Brooklyn Nets.

Summer League Observations:

Andre Roberson is just being himself:

Roberson registered a 12-point, 10-rebound double-double by aggressively attacking the offensive glass, where he hauled in five boards. Roberson also dished out two assists, made two steals and blocked a shot. While his calling card is his defense and rebounding, Roberson uses his length and athleticism to manufacture scoring opportunities for himself around the rim.

“I’m just being who I am,” Roberson said. “Defending, rebounding, being aggressive, doing the little things any way I can help my team out.”

Semaje Christon’s length and activity:

The Thunder acquired Christon, a big, physical point guard out of Xavier, after he was drafted in the second round in 2014. On Sunday he started at point guard for the Thunder and found his niche as an attacker. He hit pull-up jumpers, racking up 12 points, but also dished out five assists to help get teammates open looks. From a physical standpoint, Christon is an interesting prospect the Thunder has moving forward.

“He’s a player who has good length for the position and can pressure full court,” Rajakovic said. “He’s aggressive with the ball. He can put the ball on the floor and attack the rim.”

Perry Jones’ aggressiveness:

Over the first two days of Summer League, perhaps the most obvious and compelling flashes have come from Jones, who followed up a 15-point, six-rebound effort on Saturday with a nine-point, four-rebound outing on Sunday. Jones has been attacking off the dribble and certainly hasn’t been shy testing out his continually-developing three-point shot. By spacing out to the corner, Jones was able to stretch the defense and create shot attempts or driving lanes for himself.

“We know that he has huge potential and that he’s a great player,” Rajakovic said. “This is a great opportunity for him to work on those things, that aggressiveness he needs to have in his game.”

Feeding Steven Adams in the post:

Another noticeable strategy for the Thunder throughout the game was the way it fed the ball to Adams in the post. The Thunder’s second-year big man scored 12 points on 4-for-5 shooting and grabbed four rebounds. Playing out of the post to look for his own shot or to help facilitate for others, like he did on a nice backdoor pass to Thunder point guard Nolan Smith, are ways in which the Thunder can play from the inside-out through Adams.

“That’s something we want to add to Steven’s game,” Rajakovic said. “He’s a great defender and great rim protector, but we want to have more possessions and more touches for Steven in the low post. That’s what he needs to work on, continue to develop and add to his game.”