Jeremiah Robinson-Earl and Tre Mann
(Garrett Ellwood | NBAE via Getty Images)

OKC Continues Building Cohesion in Las Vegas

Building Cohesion

By Paris Lawson | Broadcast and Digital Reporter |

After three games in Salt Lake City, the Thunder officially tipped off the Las Vegas portion of its Summer League on Saturday with a matchup against the Houston Rockets. When it’s all said and done, the Thunder will have played a total of eight games throughout Summer League and although the location may have changed and the altitude leveled out in Vegas, the team’s approach to the eight contests remains the same. 

Each game is not only an opportunity for each player to learn and integrate into the team’s terminology and X’s and O’s, but more importantly each game serves as another step in cultivating cohesion and togetherness. 

“The guys are continuing to do a good job of not only playing to our style but learning each other's games and playing together as a unit,” said Thunder Summer League head coach Kam Woods. “Win, lose or draw, our biggest thing through these eight games is continuing to play our style of basketball and growing through that and I think they're continuing to do that.”

That cohesion that the group has been building over the course of Summer League showed up in multiple areas on Saturday. In one example offensively, rookie Jalen Williams sneakily moved without the ball behind the defense which resulted in a pair of strong backdoor finishes at the rim with sharp assists from sophomore point guard Josh Giddey.

Defensively, that togetherness showed up in the Thunder’s six blocks, the 20 turnovers it forced Houston to make and the three charges it took throughout the night. It wasn’t just a singular person responsible for making the defensive effort – by the end of the night, seven of the nine players who stepped onto the floor for the Thunder registered at least one steal. 

“The more games we have under our belt, I think the chemistry is going to get stronger. We're going to learn how we try to play, and I think we're figuring it out,” said Giddey. “The more games you play, the better we're going to be.”

On Saturday, the shining example of OKC’s growth as a unit took place in the third quarter. Houston took control of the game’s momentum in the final moments of the second quarter and as a result, walked into halftime with a five-point advantage. One of the strongest skills in the NBA is the ability to make in-game adjustments and apply them in real time. Coming out of the locker room at halftime, the Thunder applied its adjustments with force. 

Within the first two minutes and twenty seconds of the second half, the Thunder erupted on an 8-to-2 run, logged four blocks and finished three run-out, fast break opportunities. The locked-in effort by all five players on the floor put the Thunder back on top with a one-point lead and ultimately outscored the Rockets 25-19 in the frame.

“That's the thing that's most encouraging. And that's what we talk about the most,” said Woods. “[Houston] had mustered up a lot of momentum and all the chatter in the locker room, all the chatter coming out from halftime was about us doing it together. And when we do that, you'll find success and I thought we did especially coming out of half.”

“Everybody's competing at a really high level, I think and everybody's kind of willing to rotate for each other,” said Williams. “I think that makes my job easier knowing that somebody else is going to get me if I do mess up. I think that's been our key so far.”

Though the Thunder fell short in the final moments on Saturday 90-88, the matchup was a step in the right direction. Throughout its time in Las Vegas, OKC’s eyes are locked on its ability to compete, to play its brand of basketball no matter the circumstances and most importantly – do all of it together.

“The last two games have been rough but I think if you look at it through the way that we like to as an organization the guys are improving,” said Woods. “The guys are competing and they're doing it together.”