Eastern Conference Road Swing Begins in Indy – INTEGRIS Game Day Report: OKC at IND
- Tip-off: 6:00 p.m. CT
- Television: Fox Sports Oklahoma
- Radio: WWLS the Sports Animal and the Thunder Radio Network
INDIANAPOLIS – With the expectations coming into the season, the All-Star trio assembled and the quality role players spread across the roster, it seemed that the Thunder might breeze its way through the start of the season.
Internally, the team knew it would take time to develop a consistent style of play that works for every player. That’s what has been on display so far this season, and the games keep on coming quickly for the Thunder to try to find that path to stay on.
During this month of December, the team will not have more than one day of rest between any games, and will have a stretch of three games in four nights on the road during this week’s road swing to Indianapolis, Philadelphia and New York City. Head Coach Billy Donovan’s team will take these one game at a time, starting with the Indiana Pacers, who have played with verve so far this season.
— OKC THUNDER (@okcthunder) December 13, 2017
There are certainly specific matchup requirements against Indiana, but the Thunder is more focused on performing up to its own standard. Despite not meeting it for a full 48 minutes lately, this team is sticking together and staying connected on the search for a base level of play.
“What we have to do is what we try to do every night, which is play the right way and play good basketball,” forward Paul George began. “We have the talent to win games. We just have to put it together.
“We’re enjoying this grind. We’re enjoying the battles. We’re enjoying the targets on our backs,” George continued. “We’re enjoying everything that brought this team together. We’re just not enjoying the losing. At some point we have to switch our destiny and start going on the up.”
It will be a special and strange night for George, who spent the first seven years of his career in a Pacers uniform, playing for the fans in Indiana every night. He understands that he’ll likely get booed in his return to Indianapolis, but believes that energy will help fuel his game. He also hopes that the us-against-the-world mentality that inevitably will be build can help the team rally together and elevate its play.
“Within the rectangle, within that court out there, that’s our comfort zone. I’m happy where I am in life and nothing can disrupt that,” George said. “It’s a chance for us to be even closer, be even tighter, be more connected. That’s all we got. We have to play that way. We can’t allow the environment or the hostility to break us apart.”
“When he gets booed, we get booed. We’re in this together,” forward Carmelo Anthony added.
Sitting at 12-14, the Thunder doesn’t have the record that it had hoped for at this point, but it’s become clear that if the team can play with strong ball and player movement and be disciplined on defense for 48 minutes, it will have a chance to win every game it plays. Since the team can identify the pathway to success, it understands that type of performance is possible on a night to night basis and therefore, the pressure to put that out on the floor for all four quarters comes from within.
“You try to put an expectation and pressure on yourself to grow, to improve and to get better,” Donovan said. “That’s what you’re trying to do. When you get stretched, you’ll inevitably improve.
“Competitive situations bring about a residual effect,” Donovan continued. “You have to be able to handle success. You have to be able to bounce back through adversity.”
1-on-1: Steven Adams
- Everyone is back in the lineup and healthy enough to go for the Thunder besides Andre Roberson, who may or may not play against Indiana due to an ankle sprain. He went through some light shooting at practice on Tuesday and the team will know more after shootaround on Wednesday.
- The catalyst for the Pacers so far this season has been former Thunder guard Victor Oladipo. His scoring and playmaking has been the best it ever has in his young career, and much of the credit goes to the way the combo guard attacked his offseason workout regimen. Donovan said that before the trade to Indiana, Oladipo had begun working out three times a day, and that helped him gain more of the energetic spark that defines his game.
- “(Oladipo) has gotten himself in incredible shape. He’s done an incredible job with his body. And I’m happy for him because he’s really put the work in as a player. He was probably moving that direction in my opinion,” Donovan said. “When you put that kind of effort in and you have that kind of concentration and focus and determination, you’re gonna improve and you’re gonna get better.”
- Players across the board have disclosed that the reason for the losses so far this season has been on their shoulders – miscues here or communication breakdowns there – and an inability to be consistent in crucial areas for all four quarters. The team wants to and is trying to play the right way, and the way that Donovan is promoting, it just hasn’t been able to keep it going for long enough. There is buy-in from every player on the roster right now, and they’re working to execute the vision. It’s just a process that is having growing pains right now.
- “(Donovan) does a great job of verbalizing what he wants and putting it in front of us. It’s up to us to go out there and execute it. He gives us the game plan. We have to go execute that,” Anthony explained. “A lot of times when we do that we’re very efficient. We’re a tough team to beat. We don’t know what team we are when we shy away from that.”
- “The toughest part is, it’s a bit of us changing our games around a little bit and adapting to one another. That’s what it comes down to,” George noted. “It’s not that we don’t want to do it, it just going to take time for us to do it.”
- “For us it’s more about finding that consistency. We have games where we’ve blown it out the water or we have a moment in the game or a quarter in the game where it’s just not who we are. We think about that and it becomes frustrating at times and disappointing,” Anthony added. “But what I like about it is that guys are trying to figure it out. Guys are trying to make it work. Guys are trying to be unselfish and figure this thing out. We’re sticking with it."