Summer League Recap : Thunder vs. Jazz



ORLANDO – For the second consecutive day, “Thunder Basketball” was played at a high level.

Over the course of five days, the Thunder Summer League team clearly made strides both personally and collectively to improve, and Friday morning’s 89-75 victory over the Utah Jazz was a great example of the jump in maturity, execution and individual skill improvement that occurred within Mark Bryant’s team the past two weeks. The Summer League players joined the Thunder in Oklahoma City last week before traveling to Orlando, and on Friday, the team finished the week with its third consecutive win thanks to a hard-nosed, gritty effort.

“I think everybody from one to 12 just gave it their all,” Bryant said, referring to his roster. "These guys played hard all week. We had misfortune the first two games, but I think we were just getting used to one another. Once we got cohesiveness, the guys really started playing. They got comfortable with one another and they just gave flat out effort. They’ve been giving flat out effort for two weeks straight. They really got to show it on the court out here in Orlando.”

In the fourth quarter, the Thunder forced eight turnovers and made four steals in the span of one minute, which was the key to erasing an 11-point Jazz lead and turning it into an eventual 14-point victory. What set the tone throughout the day, and the week, however, was the veteran leadership of players like Lazar Hayward, Cole Aldrich and Reggie Jackson, each of whom have played with the Thunder and taught the younger guys how to play the brand of basketball Oklahoma City is known for. Whether it was scoring the ball, distributing or playing tough defense, Jackson was a leader on the court whose game expanded this week.

“Reggie started getting better and better as the week was going on,” Bryant said. “As you saw, he got that explosive dunk. That’s what he’s capable of doing. And he’s also capable of finding people in the air, finding the bigs with drop-off passes, easy plays for the bigs.”

Another player who made a big impact in this morning’s game, which had a 7 a.m. Central tip-off, was forward Latavious Williams. The combo forward notched 10 rebounds, including eight on the offensive end, which partly helped the Thunder score 21 second-chance points. The 11 points Williams chipped in gave him a double-double, and it was the spring in his leaps, long arms and soft hands that allowed him to make much-needed rebounds in the midst of collisions.

“He’s just one of those guys,” Bryant said. “He has a good nose for the ball and he knows his strengths and he plays hard to it. He’s given himself a chance, the way he played in this Summer League.”

Jackson and Williams are just two of the roster-full of players who made an impact over the course of the week. All of the players on the Thunder’s roster were clearly committed to using the coaching staff’s messages positively in order to develop different aspects of their games. As the week came to a close, Bryant reflected back on what he and the rest of the Thunder organization that was present in Orlando was able to do to help these young players grow and improve. After all, that’s what Summer League is all about.

“We just kept putting it in their heads, we play hard, we play physically and we’re going to play for 40 minutes and we’ll see what happens at the end,” Bryant said. “I think the main thing we tried to bring across was pay attention to detail, being physical, playing for the whole 40 minutes of basketball, sharing the ball and just having fun.”

The big Thunder run that completely turned the game around happened early in the fourth quarter, starting when the Jazz led 67-60 with 9:12 remaining. Ryan Reid knocked down two free throws, then James Mays made a steal that led to a John Holland free throw. Shortly thereafter, the Thunder made four consecutive steals in a one-minute window, setting up three fast break layups to give the team a 69-67 lead. While forcing three straight missed shots on the defensive end, Garrett Temple knocked down a jumper, Marquez Haynes hit two free throws and Latavious Williams made a put-back layup to push the Thunder’s lead to 75-67. That 15-0 run was the push the Thunder needed to get over the hump, and its lead never dipped below six again.

Latavious Williams with a massive one-handed putback slam dunk on the first offensive possession then Cole Aldrich makes a big rebound and runs the floor to draw a foul… Garrett Temple uses a Williams screen to get freed up for a three pointer from Reggie Jackson… Aldrich sticks with a play and grabs a loose ball, then hits Lazar Hayward for a three pointer on the wing… Aldrich saves a defensive board and Williams hustles to track it down… Hayward gets back in transition to stop a fast break and Temple comes up with the board… Nice hanging post-up jumper by Temple on the block then Gary McGhee makes a block… Dwight Buycks with a great one-on-one move with a turnaround jumper in the lane… Buycks slaps away an inbounds pass to end the quarter…Smart post defense by John Holland to force a contested shot then grab the rebound… Nice work out of the in-bounds play by Morris Almond to knock down a jumper… Ryan Reid stays active on the glass and follows up a miss with a put-back, then Reid saves a ball inbounds to Jackson for a jumper… Good work by Jackson to get to the bucket then Williams snags a defensive rebound… Jackson makes a steal out top then gets a clear path foul call on his fast break… Aldrich with a tough defensive board then he hedges out hard to prevent a drive.

Hayward uses an off-ball screen by Aldrich to get into the lane and hit a hanging floater… Aldrich makes a block down low then Williams follows up a miss with a dunk… Williams with two more offensive boards on the same possession… Great pass from Jackson to Hayward for a layup-and-one in transition… Incredible slam dunk in the lane by Jackson that makes the whole bench explode… Good awareness by Gary McGhee to get the ball to a leaking Hayward for a bucket and the foul… Temple gets back in transition to make a block, then Hayward draws an offensive foul on the Jazz… Beautiful triangle passing from Marquez Haynes, McGhee and Williams for a dunk… Reid makes a great steal on a drive then draws the foul to get to the free throw line… Holland stays alert and makes a steal then throws a great bounce pass to Temple for a fast break layup… Temple and Mays combine for a steal, then Temple hits Mays for a layup on a behind-the-back pass… Another transition bucket gives the Thunder the lead… Temple drives left then hits a beautiful step-back… Williams again with a put-back bucket as the Thunder run continues… Haynez pulls a nice step-back jumper towards the end of the shot clock then Holland makes a steal off a post-up before hitting Williams with a sweet bounce pass to draw the foul… Williams blocks a shot that leads to a Holland run-out that draws a foul… Williams grabs his eighth offensive rebound, and tenth of the game, then hits Haynes for a three pointer… Perfect cross-court pass from Buycks to Temple for a corner three pointer.

1 Massive, incredible monster slam dunk by Reggie Jackson
8 Turnovers forced by the Thunder in the fourth quarter, resulting in nine points
9 Points by Marquez Haynes, all in the fourth quarter
10 Rebounds by Latavious Williams, including eight on the offensive end
16-2 The Thunder’s advantage in fast break points in the second half
29-10 Points advantage for the Thunder in the fourth quarter
35-for-38 Free throw shooting numbers for the Thunder
39-29 Rebounding advantage for the Thunder on the afternoon

That’s all for the Thunder’s Summer League Team!