Josh Giddey
(Zach Beeker | OKC Thunder)

Reporter's Notebook: OKC 118, SAS 112

By Nick Gallo and Paris Lawson | okcthunder.com

Highlights: OKC 118, SAS 112

The Big Picture 

The Thunder closed out its extended six-game preseason schedule on the road in San Antonio. After defeating Detroit just two days prior, Coach Daigneault’s group got yet another test against a team full of young players throughout its rotation. After falling behind by 12 points in the first quarter, the Thunder rallied back with a strong 36-point second quarter, including a 15-1 run. 

From that point on, the Thunder and the Spurs were neck and neck in a game that featured 12 ties and 16 lead changes. It was tied at 110 with 3:24 to go, but after that the Thunder allowed just two points, forcing six missed shots and a turnover over San Antonio’s final eight possessions to complete a 118-112 win

Observations
1st Quarter

Nick Gallo: The Thunder rolled out a bigger starting lineup to begin this one, especially compared to the smaller unit the team tested in Detroit. With Jaylin Williams marking Jakob Poeltl from the outset and Jeremiah Robinson-Earl alongside him, head coach Mark Daigneault put two players out there who could conceivably play center for the Thunder this season. As a part of the overall preseason experimentation, this game was a great chance to see how the Thunder could attack Poeltl in a drop coverage and even how it could rebound the ball in a zone defense. 

NG: Two tough buckets in a row in the lane for Lu Dort, a hard charging drive to his right from the left wing, then one possession later a push shot going from the right corner into the lane going left. Dort made it 6-straight points with a backdoor cut and finish off a Josh Giddey pass. While his identity is based on what he provides defensively, Dort’s continued maturation as a finisher and decision-maker on offense helps him be a two-way threat. He scored 12 points in 13 minutes, all in the first half. 

Paris Lawson: The Thunder trailed by as many as 12 points in the first quarter. It wasn’t until the final minute of the frame that the group caught momentum by scoring seven unanswered points to close the gap to a manageable five points heading into the second frame. With a rangey, versatile lineup that featured Ousmane Dieng, Darius Bazley and the 7-foot presence of Aleksej Pokuševski, OKC strung together stops defensively that immediately initiated offense on the other end of the floor. 

2nd Quarter

PL: Thunder forward Aleksej Pokuševski continues to showcase the strides he made in the offseason. The jThunder’s 7-footer strung together several smooth, fluid finishes at the basket and avoided the wide arms of Jakob Poeltl. Pokusevski’s eight points in his first 10 minutes of action played a major role in the Thunder’s 15-1 run that allowed OKC to regain their lead in the second frame after falling behind by double digits in the first. 

NG: Lindy Waters stepped to the line to take three free throws after Jeremy Sochan committed a flagrant foul with 0.7 seconds in the half remaining and nailed all three. That put the Thunder at 19-for-23 on free throw attempts in the first half alone, a huge tally that helped offset misses from behind the arc. Keeping the scoreboard moving at the free throw line is a vital skill that veteran teams often employ, and one the Thunder will look to continue mastering. OKC went 28-for-35 overall in the game. 

3rd Quarter

NG: Clever move by Josh Giddey to dummy a pistol action on the right wing, baiting the defense to think he was going to hand the ball off to a teammate sprinting up the sideline. Instead, he spun and drove through the middle of the lane for a layup. Giddey helped spearhead a Thunder attack that was in the lane all night long, be it with his own attacks or his accurate passing on backdoor cuts or inbounds passes. He finished the game with 18 points, six rebounds and six assists. 

PL: Incredible block by Darius Bazley to deny Doug McDermott’s dunk attempt from the baseline. Last season, Bazley was the only qualifying player with more blocks (70) than fouls (68). With three minutes left in the third quarter, down by five points, the play brought a much-needed punch of energy to the Thunder’s defense. That trend continued against the Spurs as Bazley finished with a pair of blocks and just one foul. 

PL: High quality final sequence for the Thunder to end the third quarter. After a fumbled pass from San Antonio, Lindy Waters III dove on the floor to secure the loose ball and quickly get it up to Josh Giddey who zipped the ball ahead to a streaking Darius Bazley for a dunk with two seconds left on the clock. Entering into the final frame, the Thunder only trailed two points and had momentum on their side. 

4th Quarter

NG: Impressive job by the Thunder to navigate a full court press and heavy trapping by the Spurs on the opening possession of the fourth quarter. On multiple occasions it looked like Tre Mann, Lindy Waters III or Jaylin Williams might be pressured into a turnover, but their collective calm and passing prowess helped generate a Darius Bazley drive and kick to Tre Mann for a 28-foot 3-pointer to give the Thunder a lead. Mann buried another three two possessions later, finishing the game with four total makes and the preseason 19-for-36 (52.8 percent) from behind the arc. 

PL: Thunder two-way player Eugene Omoruyi stepped into the game midway through the fourth quarter with the Thunder down one point. On his first possession, Omoruyi sank a 3-pointer in the corner and then immediately took a charge on the other end of the floor on the next possession. Omoruyi’s critical seven points in nine minutes of action is an example of the impact that Thunder’s bench had on this ball game. It was the second unit that sparked the Thunder’s run to close the gap in the first quarter and by the end of the night, the bench outscored San Antonio’s reserves 61 to 51. 

Quotes of the Night

“We closed really well on both ends. We were organized on offense and we were tough on defense, Omoruyi and Jaylin Williams had a great verticality, then the next possession JDub (Jalen Williams) had an unbelievable verticality. He was head above the rim - just big time plays out of those guys, so it was encouraging.” —Coach Daigneault 

“We got better because every game we were there on defense and on offense we were playing like we practiced.” —Ousmane Dieng

What’s Next

The Thunder returns to Oklahoma City where they’ll finish out training camp and practice in the lead up to the team’s regular season opener against the Minnesota Timberwolves on October 19. 

The Walkout: OKC at SAS

Thursday's Photos