Keep it Rolling with Physicality and Movement – INTEGRIS Game Day Report: OKC vs. UTA

By Nick Gallo | Thunder Basketball Writer |

Broadcast Information

  • Tip-off: 7:00 p.m. CT
  • Television: Fox Sports Oklahoma
  • Radio: WWLS the Sports Animal and the Thunder Radio Network

Back in the second game of the regular season, the Thunder flew out to Salt Lake City and fell to a Utah Jazz club that looks mighty different than the one that rolls into Chesapeake Energy Arena tonight. Coming off of a thumping of the Washington Wizards at home, the Jazz has now ripped off six straight wins, while the Thunder is trying to back up its past two wins with another one to complete this three-game home stand.

The Thunder had a grind-it-out victory over the Spurs on Sunday night to follow up a squeaker against the Minnesota Timberwolves, and now it’ll have to contend with another Northwest Division foe in the Jazz, who can play both big with Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors, and then small with guard heavy play in the second unit.

“They’re playing really well. They have a unique build of size when they play big as well as being able to play small and going fast,” forward Paul George said. “This is going to be a physical, tough game tonight, but we’re for sure going to bring that physicality.”

Despite not having Rodney Hood, Joe Johnson or Dante Exum, the Jazz have been on a hot streak, with much credit going to rookie guard Donovan Mitchell. The strong, powerful guard was the 13th selection in the 2017 NBA Draft, and since the start of November he’s averaging 19.6 points per game, including 31 points over his past two games.

“(Mitchell) could be the steal of the whole draft,” George said. “He’s a tough, fearless kid. We all seen that working out with him this past summer.”

Paul George After Shootaround

Slowing down Mitchell and Ricky Rubio on the perimeter will be important, because that penetration into the paint is what allows the Jazz to get easy lob opportunities for Gobert or chances for Favors to score at the dunker spot. On top of that, the Jazz have been one of the best three-point shooting teams in the league so far, so the Thunder must worry about that as well. It’ll be up to the Thunder’s guards like Russell Westbrook and Andre Roberson to stop the ball, and for Steven Adams to be there for support as well to prevent two-on-one situations between Jazz guards and bigs.

“Every big is different because it comes down to the sets that they run and how well they run it. Tonight it’s going to be stopping the ball and making sure it doesn’t get downhill,” Adams explained. “It’s mainly more that than individual. You have to defend the system rather than one dude.”

On the other end of the floor, the Thunder could benefit from continuing to get Steven Adams involved in the offense. Over the past two games Adams has averaged 23.0 points per game on 19-for-24 shooting with much credit going to the way Westbrook, George and Carmelo Anthony have found the rolling big man barreling down the rim for easy layups and dunks.

“It’s really down to the execution of the play, the pace and the tempo that you run it at,” Adams said. “It’s more that, which will help everyone moreso than just one guy scoring.”

Steven Adams After Shootaround

One particular play has worked quite nicely. After screening for a guard at one elbow, Adams makes a diagonal cut across the lane to the opposite block. As soon as the initial ball handler swings the ball to the wing, the lane is clear for a pass to be rifled down to the cutting Adams for a layup. If the Jazz big men pressure up high on pick-and-rolls, there’s an opportunity to be had for Adams on that off ball movement. If the Thunder gashes the defense enough with those types of actions, it can open up the floor for everyone.

“It makes the game a lot easier for myself when I can get (Adams) involved through pick and rolls. The big has to retreat back and stay with Steve,” George said. “It makes it easier for passing because they have to load up on Steve on pick and rolls and him going downhill.”

1-on-1: Patrick Patterson

Nick's Notebook

- Monday night was the Thunder’s 10th annual Target Shopping Spree as a part of the team’s Holiday Assist program, but it was Paul George’s first one with the team. He truly enjoyed his experience giving back to those in need.

  • “It was great to get us out in the community. Along with them receiving presents and gifts and being able to shop, us being there was the icing to it,” George said. “To be able to hang and have a moment laughing and playing around with them, it was a special night.”

- George has found a way to get involved in Oklahoma’s community at large as well as helping individuals. An avid sports fan, the Thunder forward has been keeping up with the Oklahoma Sooners football team, and had some glowing remarks about quarterback Baker Mayfield.

  • “He’s been a stud. I’ve been following up on him, being here in Oklahoma,” George said. “He just has that ‘it’ about him as far as being a leader. He holds everybody accountable and he’s always ready. It’s the perfect guy and you’re a team and you want somebody in that spot.”
  • “He should definitely be a guy who is going to play on Sunday and earn a lot of money on Sunday. I’m a big fan of Baker,” George continued. "You can see it, and the really good ones have a way of impacting everyone on the team. He has that. On the sidelines they pan on him and he’s engaged with everybody, he’s getting the crowd into it… The thing about it is you have to have good energy, and he definitely has good energy.”

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