Summer League Recap: Thunder vs. Indiana Pacers

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

It was certainly a tale of four totally different quarters in the Thunder’s 94-71 loss to the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday afternoon, so afterwards, the team looked to take the good with the bad and find a way to learn from it.

Players like Jeremy Lamb, Perry Jones, Steven Adams, Andre Roberson, Mitch McGary, Josh Huestis and Semaj Christon all found ways to be effective for portions of the contest, and rather than the final score, it will be the manner in which the team and individuals played that is most heavily analyzed by Head Coach Darko Rajakovic and his staff.

“It’s just developing, and we’re trying to play a certain way, which is the Thunder way,” Adams said. “That’s what we’re trying to put in. We’re trying to get better as a team and the chemistry comes playing together. Everyone is taking the right steps forward to playing the Thunder way.”

While the Thunder shot just 37.5 percent from the field and turned the ball over 17 times, there were some positives to glean from this one. The aggressive Thunder squad got to the free throw line an incredible 42 times by continually attacking the paint and feeding big men like Adams and McGary in the post. In addition, the Thunder was able to rack up 11 offensive rebounds and get into transition for an 11-5 edge in fast break points.

“Andre had a very good game, a very positive game.,” Rajakovic said. “He was very good on the boards. He did a very good job defensively and we like his aggressiveness on offense. That’s something we’re taking away from this game. Also, one big thing that we’re working on is early seals and post ups for Steven. He was doing a pretty good job with that. We were able to get the ball a lot into the low post and that was a positive tonight.”

Summer League Observations:

Andre Roberson’s rebounding:

Roberson registered double-digit rebounds for the second straight game here in Orlando, and he’s grabbed at least eight in all three contests he’s played in thus far. With nine points, two steals and 10 total rebounds, Roberson made his presences known on both ends of the floor with his length and activity. Through today’s action, Roberson ranks near the top amongst all players here in Orlando in rebounding with 9.3 per game. Beyond his physical tools like his athleticism, leaping ability and wingspan, Roberson seems to have a knack for being in the right position every time the ball bounces off the rim.  

“He’s doing a great job defensively rebounding the ball but also on offense,” Rajakovic said. “One thing that is very important for his offensive rebounding is that his transition defense is not in jeopardy. So when he goes for the offensive rebound, he never sticks around. He’s really quick getting back on the defensive end and matches up.”

McGary’s Jumper:

Mitch McGary scored a team-high 15 points on 5-for-7 shooting, in addition to going 5-for-7 from the free throw stripe. While he scored a couple of buckets around the rim, it was most impressive to see the Thunder’s rookie big man step out and knock down a few mid-range jumpers. It appears McGary is comfortable near the elbows, along the wing and in the short corner with his jump shot.

“We knew he was a great player and that’s the reason why we drafted him,” Rajakovic said. “This week was important for us and him as well, because he hadn’t played games since December. We’re very satisfied with where he is right now.”  

Lamb attacking the rim:

Lamb didn’t shoot the ball as well as he is capable, but he continually attacked the rim to attempt to put pressure on the defense. Lamb finished a few acrobatic layups in the lane en route to 12 points. As he learns to be a more dynamic scorer and playmaker, experiences like Wednesday’s are valuable for his continued development.

Adams’ post moves:

Steven Adams displayed an array of post moves this afternoon. While not all of them ended in a bucket, it was encouraging to see the Thunder throw the ball into the post for him to show off a few strong drop steps, hook shots, pump fakes and turnaround jumpers, all with very solid footwork. It’s been a clear focus this week to see what Adams can do in the post and give him more experience operating from the inside to create for himself and others.  Adams finished with 10 points on 3-for-6 shooting on the afternoon. Adams also helped his cause with five offensive rebounds.

“We want to see Steven be able to get the ball in the low post more and create from there,” Rajakovic said. “Tonight he showed a couple of really good passes from the low post and a couple of really good moves. We have to be happy with that. That’s something that is adding to his game and is going to be an emphasis for the rest of the summer.”

“We’ve been working on it for a year, all last year,” Adams said. “Now it’s just putting it into the games and trying to get comfortable in the games. I just tried out moves, trying to get comfortable and it’s heading in the right direction I think.”

Thunder length a factor:

The Thunder forced the Pacers into 17 turnovers, while making eight steals and blocking five shots. With the athletes on this Thunder roster, it should be no surprise that the team often gave Indiana problems in the half-court and even in transition. On offense, that length lead to some acrobatic catches in transition and finishes above the rim. Perry Jones, Steven Adams, Josh Huestis, Andre Roberson and Jeremy Lamb all have the wingspan to shrink the floor on defense and expand the passing target on offense.  “Those guys are very good players on both ends of the floor,” Rajakovic said. “They’re good rebounders. Their size, with their height and their length, they’re a big threat.”