Summer League Recap: Thunder vs. Brooklyn Nets

By Nick Gallo | Thunder Basketball Writer | mailbag@thunder-nba.com

The entire week of Summer League is about continuing to grow and progress, and that’s exactly what the Thunder has shown over the first three days. In a 98-84 win over the Brooklyn Nets on Monday night, Summer League Head Coach Darko Rajakovic’s squad put together four solid quarters of team basketball on both ends of the floor.

“I said that yesterday and we lost the game, and I feel exactly the same way today when we won the game,” Rajakovic said. “We want to focus on several things that we want to improve and develop with those guys, and they did a great job tonight.”

The Thunder shot just 43.8 percent from the field, but it racked up 22 assists on 35 made shots as five different players scored in double figures. Rajakovic’s club was paced by Jeremy Lamb’s 26 points and Mitch McGary’s 18 points and 13 rebounds. On the night, the Thunder out-rebounded Brooklyn 38-31, while outscoring the Nets in the paint, on second chance opportunities, fast break points and points off turnovers.

It was a tightly contested contest through the first three quarters, but the Thunder was able to pull away with a 29-19 fourth quarter, in which Rajakovic’s club made extra passes, got stops on the defensive end and extended the lead through commitment to its principles on both ends of the floor. Through its execution in the half-court on offense and proper communication on defense, the Thunder was able to come away with its first win of the 2014 Summer League week.

“We just stayed together, kept fighting, moved the ball, were able to get open shots and talked on the defensive end,” Lamb said.  

Summer League Observations:

Thunder rebounding:

The Thunder sealed off the glass on the defensive end, holding Brooklyn to just three offensive rebounds. On the other end of the floor, the Thunder racked up 14 offensive boards, including six by Mitch McGary. Proper box outs where crucial on the defensive end, while relentlessly attacking the offensive glass helped create loose balls, giving the Thunder extra opportunities. Combined with the 26 Nets turnovers that the Thunder forced, Rajakovic’s squad was able to take 24 more shot attempts on the evening.

“(The rebounding) was huge,” Lamb said. “We got a lot of extra shot attempts. We missed a lot of shots but we were able to chase them down. It’s always good to get more attempts. It’s always good to get extra possessions whether it’s off steals or rebounds.”

Mitch McGary’s Ball-handling:

McGary was key for the Thunder on the glass, racking up 13 total boards, and that allowed him to turn those defensive stops into transition opportunities for the Thunder. On multiple occasions, the Thunder’s rookie forward immediately pushed the ball up the floor, attacking as far as he could before trying to finish at the rim or find a teammate. McGary, who finished with 18 points also showed flashes of his ability to attack off the bounce in the half court. When the Nets trapped guards up top, they immediately hit McGary with an outlet pass and from there, the Thunder big man was able to put the ball on the floor to put pressure on the defense.

“I have a feel for the ball and it helps,” McGary said. “When I’m able to push the ball one, two or three dribbles, I try to get it up to a guard. If not, I’ll try to get it ahead to somebody for a transition layup.”

The Thunder’s spacing and movement:

While McGary’s attacking nature and ability to handle the ball was helpful to the overall flow of the offense, the Thunder’s spacing and movement has been much better in general as the week has progressed. The initial positioning of each of the players on the floor helped create better driving and passing lanes, and movement off the ball put the Nets out of position. During the week, and particularly against Brooklyn, the Thunder used that spacing and movement to find open looks within the flow of the offense.

“It was great last night as well, the only difference was tonight we were making more shots, so everything looked a little bit better,” Rajakovic said. “I’m satisfied with how we played. We stuck together.”

“We were just playing together and ‘making singles’”, McGary said. “Just making the extra pass, hitting the open guy and knocking down shots.”

Jeremy Lamb’s aggressiveness:

Lamb scored in a variety of ways on the night, including in transition, off the dribble and as a spot up shooter.  On the night he finished with 26 points along with eight rebounds and continued to be effective in more ways as the game wore on. He hit floaters in the lane, jump shots off the dribble and spot up three pointers. On the defensive end, Lamb kept his hands in the passing lane to make three steals, using his length to bother the Nets and disrupt possessions along the perimeter.

“I stayed aggressive and my team believed in me, so it feels good to get the win,” Lamb said. “I’m trying to get better. Your shot is not going to be on every game, so you have to learn different ways to do it, whether it’s free throw line, mid-range or getting to the hole. You just have to find a way.”