Stay Disciplined Against a Physical Hornets Squad – INTEGRIS Game Day Report: OKC vs. CHA
By Nick Gallo | Thunder Basketball Writer | firstname.lastname@example.org
- Tip-off: 7:00 p.m. CT
- Television: Fox Sports Oklahoma
- Radio: WWLS the Sports Animal and the Thunder Radio Network
It was a happy locker room for the Thunder in Memphis after it snapped an 8-game road losing skid. And for good reason, given the dramatic comeback and overtime finish that helped the team bounce back from a tough loss in Mexico City to the Brooklyn Nets.
Now though, the Thunder has just one game at home, tonight against the Charlotte Hornets, before it has to take off again for three straight away from Chesapeake Energy Arena. Carrying over that positive momentum from Memphis will be predicated on the hunger, tenacity and urgency the Thunder plays with for all 48 minutes.
“It was a good road win,” Westbrook said. “We just have to play harder than the other team. When we play hard and our mind is in the right place, good things happen for us.”
The x’s and o’s matter for sure, and that’s why the team continues to hone in on ways to propel the offense forward. On Saturday it was through an offensive set that got Alex Abrines free on a couple of screens from the strong side back over to the weakside of the floor, popping up to the top for a three pointer. In the second half and overtime, the Thunder continually hammered on that offensive set, getting good looks. In other close finishes, point guard Russell Westbrook has played all of his cards – ensuring multiple teammates are getting varied scoring opportunities to keep the defense on its toes.
“It depends on how teams are guarding you,” Westbrook explained. “If you have a set that works then definitely use it, but if teams are guarding a certain type of way, you have to be able to adjust as well.”
Thunder Talk: Russell Westbrook
In tonight’s game for the Thunder, it’ll be what precedes crunch time that matters first. Charlotte comes into this game first in free throws made and attempted, fifth in fouls, second in overall rebounding and first in turnovers. It’s a veteran, disciplined group that plays with toughness and physicality. The Thunder will have to be strong rebounding the ball and smart on and off the ball in order to not foul. Those are team principles anyway, but must be heightened to avoid playing into the Hornets’ hands.
“Everything is about us. We just have to play to our identity like we did in the second half of last game and just be ourselves,” Abrines said. “We’re still working on things on offense and defense,” Abrines said. “On offense, play with pace and stamina, move the ball and find the open man. On defense we’re doing a good job of helping each other, trapping the box and boxing out.”
“As long as we keep doing that, we’re always going to give ourselves a chance to win the game,” Westbrook added.
Thunder Talk: Alex Abrines
- Both Paul George (calf contusion) and Andre Roberson (ankle) will be listed as questionable heading into tonight’s game. Head Coach Billy Donovan will give an update on their status at about 5:15 p.m CST. George was seen going through a post-shootaround workout, but even if he’s unable to go, he’s benefitted from being able to watch the game from a different angle the past two games.
- “Being out, I’m getting to see the game differently, getting to see from afar, things we can get better with,” George said. “It’ll help when I come back to try to incorporate that into what we’re doing and try to give us a boost.”
- “It’s great to see it being off the court that we can play a lot better,” George added. “It’s just about playing for one another. The game will be extremely easy if we just create shots for one another. As good as we are, we have to do it as one.”
- Abrines finally broke out in Memphis, scoring a career-best 20 points on 6-of-8 three-point shooting. After missing almost all of training camp and a good portion of the summer, it took some time for him to get his legs back under him. The sharpshooter knows he’s not always going to hit six threes and that sometimes he’ll need to just play tough defense for his team, but either way he’s feeling good and he was clearly back to form on Saturday. His teammates showed him some love on the bench with the beard-rubbing celebration that guard Anthony Morrow invented last season.
- “If you asked me this 10 years ago, I would never imagine an NBA bench would do that because I hit a three,” Abrines grinned.
Watch: Game Preview
1-on-1: Kyle Singler