Thunder Determined to Keep Up the Momentum – INTEGRIS Game Day Report: OKC vs. PHI
- Tip-off: 5:00 p.m. CT
- Television:Fox Sports Oklahoma
- Radio: WWLS the Sports Animal and the Thunder Radio Network
By the time the Thunder arrived back on its long flight from Detroit, the Philadelphia 76ers were already settled into their hotel in Oklahoma City, awaiting tonight’s early tip off at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
Saturday night in Detroit featured wild emotional swings for the Thunder due to the injury to Andre Roberson, Carmelo Anthony’s 21 points that helped him join the 25,000-point club, Russell Westbrook’s triple-double and Paul George making the All-Star team due to the injury to New Orleans Pelicans center DeMarcus Cousins. That was a lot to digest in a 3-hour time period, and it’ll be interesting to see how the Thunder handles all of that against a 76ers team that is talented and tenacious.
“It’s a quick turnaround playing Philly tomorrow, so it’s not like we’re going to get a whole bunch solved,” Head Coach Billy Donovan said.
“This NBA don’t get no easier,” Anthony quipped. “We have to be ready to go back home and play.”
There’s been precious little time for the team to make adjustments or talk over strategy, so it’ll be up to the professionalism of all parties involved to get organized and ready for action. What makes it all easier is the fact that the locker room is a legitimate safe haven for all 14 Thunder players, and that all season long the team has figured out, internally, how to handle ever piece of adversity that has been thrown its way.
“It’s a great group of guys. We got really good chemistry. We like each other,” Donovan noted.
Just because Donovan’s group has done it before, however, doesn’t necessarily guarantee it’ll be easy to negotiate losing Roberson, one the of the NBA’s preeminent defenders and a Defensive Player of the Year candidate. The severity of Roberson’s patellar tendon injury hasn’t been confirmed, but he’ll certainly miss this one against the 76ers, after missing eight games at the end of December and start of January.
The Thunder has some experience playing without him, and while there’s a small comfort in having been in this situation before, it doesn’t change the reality of Roberson’s specific impact on the Thunder. Without him, it’ll need to be a collective effort by all five men on the floor to develop a slightly altered identity as a unit.
“It doesn’t make it any easier, no matter how many times you do it,” center Steven Adams said solemnly.
“We never want to play games without him,” Anthony added. “Now it’s back to guys stepping up and whoever is called to be in that position has to be ready. We do have something good going for us right now. Whoever steps into that place has to be ready to perform.”
- UPDATE: Terrance Ferguson will start in Roberson's place in the starting lineup tonight against Philadelphia. Roberson underwent successful surgery on Sunday to repair a ruptured patellar tendon in his left knee. He will miss the remainder of the 2017-18 season.
- As Adams pointed out on Saturday night, there’s no replacing Roberson as a person and player. Each man is unique, and has a specific set of skills. Anyone who fills those minutes will be doing so as themselves, not as a stand-in for Roberson’s role. It’ll be up to Donovan and the coaching staff to determine the best way to play moving forward, on a night to night basis. The options are there, and plenty: Ferguson, Alex Abrines, Josh Huestis, Jerami Grant, Raymond Felton and possibly even a guy like Daniel Hamilton, who is on a two-way contract with the OKC Blue.
- “I have a lot of confidence in Terrance, and trying to utilize Alex as well will be important. Josh, different guys will have to step up,” Donovan said. “This is a different opportunity. When you play 82 games, there are going to be different guys who are going to be in and out.”
- The other four players in the starting lineup will have to pick up the slack in some ways as well. There are certain avenues Donovan could pursue that would take Anthony away from the “4” spot on the floor and back to small forward, though the newest member of the 25,000-point club seems to be quite comfortable in his role as a stretch forward playing next to Adams in the lineup on both ends of the floor.
- “I don’t even know if power forward is a position anymore these days. I think the power forward position is a little irrelevant. Nowadays it’s all stretch forwards rather than power forwards,” Anthony opined. “Anytime you can play alongside a guy like Steve who demands a lot of attention offensively, defensively he’s there, he’s got your back, we have his back. He makes life easy out there. “