Summer League Recap : Thunder vs. Pacers



ORLANDO -- Incremental, steady improvement is at the core of Thunder basketball, and that is exactly what is occurring here at the Orlando Summer League.

Whether it was moving the ball more efficiently, making the offense flow more smoothly or communicating better on the defensive end, the Thunder made strides in Tuesday’s 78-74 loss to the Indiana Pacers during its second game of the summer. Ultimately, the 13-0 run that ignited the Thunder early in the fourth quarter was pushed back by a 12-0 spurt by the Pacers, but the effort was consistently high and the mistakes fewer across the board. As the week progresses, the Thunder and its Summer League Head Coach Mark Bryant are continually looking for ways to get better.

“It’s a learning process for the 40 minutes,” Bryant said. “That’s what this summer is all about, learning, feeling your way through, playing in an NBA atmosphere.”

Player development is an essential tool for the Thunder organization, as evidenced by the marked improvement of players like Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, James Harden and Serge Ibaka over the past four or so years. Other important cogs in the Thunder’s wheel like Perry Jones, Cole Aldrich and Reggie Jackson are now in the same incubator, with the hopes that those three can make improvements to their games along the way. As a whole, Bryant believes that his team has shown the ability to process information and make changes, particularly when it comes to sharing the ball efficiently.

“I think the biggest thing we’ve learned so far is hitting the open guy,” Bryant said. “We need to keep bumping that up each game and get comfortable with one another.”

The Thunder’s assist totals jumped up by six from Monday to Tuesday, and Bryant said that he hopes they spike up again on Wednesday against the Detroit Pistons (noon Central, NBA-TV). Part of the better offensive rhythm was due to the attacking nature of Jackson, who sliced and diced his way through the paint to create scoring opportunities for himself and for others.

When the ball wasn’t going in the bucket, the Thunder’s Latavious Williams was seemingly always there to clean it up. With six offensive boards highlighting his 10-point, nine-rebound day, Williams used his length, energy and physicality to make an impact on both ends of the floor.

“I think I did pretty well,” Williams said. “We’re just still trying to get the team together and get out and win some games. Overall, I think everybody did well.”

Another bright spot so far for the Thunder has been the play of Lazar Hayward, who despite still being a young player in the league, is one of the most experienced veterans on the Thunder's Summer League roster. Throughout the first two days his leadership has been nearly palpable. Whether it is simply playing tough, physical basketball on both ends, communicating loudly and consistently on defense or rallying his teammates in timeouts, Hayward has been energetic and forceful. The fact that Hayward has become the leader of this young Summer League squad has come as no surprise to Bryant.

“That’s what we expect Lazar to do,” Bryant said. “He’s a hard-nosed type of player, takes control of it. He was talking a lot more. He’s been doing that in the first game and this game. He came in and he was ready to play. He was physical. He’s talking everybody through things and that’s what we expect from him.”

The turning point in this ball game came after the Thunder went on a massive 13-0 run to take a two-point lead with 7:13 remaining in the game. Standing at 61-59 Thunder after a Garrett Temple layup, the Pacers scored 12 unanswered points to make it 71-61 Pacers with 2:23 remaining. Two free throws, a number of offensive rebounds, a Miles Plumlee hook shot, a four consecutive Lance Stephenson points on two layups caused the initial burst, then the Pacers knocked down four more free throws and a jumper for good measure. During the stretch, the Thunder struggled to find the bottom of the net, missing five shots and turning the ball over four times.

Nice closeout by Lazar Hayward to prevent a drive… Slick dump off pass from Morris Almond to Perry Jones for a strong layup through contact, then Jones uses his length to alter a shot... Pretty up and under post up move from Cole Aldrich to score a bucket on a hook shot… Really sweet spin move in the lane and soft touch from Jones to hit a floater going left… Latavious Williams stays active on the offensive boards to tip a ball to himself… Good screen from Aldrich to free up Almond for a jumper on an inbounds play… Strong post defense by Ryan Reid to stay in between his man and the ball, then block the shot… Great hustle on the offensive glass by Williams to put in his own miss… Good vision from Williams to find Aldrich on the block to draw a foul… Great effort by Jackson to split a double team off a screen and get to the bucket with the foul… Big block by Gary McGhee on a jump shot that Lazar Hayward takes to the other end for a layup… Nice move by Hayward to drive and kick to Temple, who pump faked and hit a leaner.

Good job of contesting by Jones then rebounding by Aldrich… Nice work in the two-man game between Jackson and Aldrich to get Aldrich two free throw attempts on a pick-and-roll… Great hustle by Hayward to get back in transition and knock away a pass to prevent an easy bucket… Good awareness by Jones to stay with the play, grabbing a loose ball at the rim and flushing it home… Hayward jumps the passing lane to knock a ball out of bounds followed by an active sequence for Hayward who grabs a loose ball and slams one home in transition… Beautiful driving move by Jackson to get to the cup and finish at the rim through contact… McGhee sets a strong screen that frees up Jackson for an elbow jumper… Big box out and good understanding of the rebounding angle by Hayward, who then Hayward runs to the corner and takes a pass from Haynes for a three pointer, then uses strong defensive pressure forces a Pacers turnover… Great activity by Reid on the defensive glass to get the ball to Temple for a run out… Williams with another strong offensive board, uses his length to bring it down, then Williams stays active with a tip in on the offensive boards... Smart play by Jackson to kick the ball to Temple in the corner for a 3-pointer.

3 Blocked shots for Perry Jones to go with his eight points and four rebounds
4 Assists for Reggie Jackson on the day, in addition to 13 points
6 Offensive rebounds for Latavious Williams, which helped the Thunder score 12 second-chance points
8 Points for Morris Almond, who started at shooting guard
9 Points for Garrett Temple today, on 4-for-7 shooting
10 Points for Latavious Williams on the afternoon on 5-for-8 shooting
15 Points for Lazar Hayward in addition to his eight rebounds
15-8 Fast-break points advantage for the Thunder, where it scored on 7-for-9 shooting

The Thunder's Summer League team will face the Detroit Pistons at noon CT on Wednesday. The game will air on NBA-TV.

The Thunder then plays against the Brooklyn Nets at noon on Thursday and closes its Summer League schedule at 7 a.m. Friday against the Utah Jazz.