Practice, Film and Recovery to Prep for Pelicans – INTEGRIS Game Day Report: OKC at NOP

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

NEW ORLEANS – The Thunder just got done dealing with the new twin towers in San Antonio of LaMarcus Aldridge and Pau Gasol. Now it’ll be charged with battling the next generation of tandem bigs. New Orleans Pelicans forward Anthony Davis is listed as probably for Monday night’s clash with the Thunder, and he’ll team up with DeMarcus Cousins in the frontcourt to create a duo that’s completely unique in the NBA.

While the experience of dealing with Aldridge and Gasol helps to some extent, New Orleans’ pairing is even more formidable from a production standpoint. Having center Steven Adams back in the lineup is a major help against Cousins, but it’ll be up to forwards Carmelo Anthony and Paul George to contain Davis, who can score from every spot on the court. Between the two of them, Cousins and Davis are hanging over 50 points and nearly 20 rebounds per game on foes.

“Cousins puts it on the floor. He shoots threes,” Head Coach Billy Donovan reported. “Moving your feet on him becomes really important. Trying to be physical with his catches without fouling.”

“They’re a load,” Anthony said, shaking his head. “For myself, Steven, it’s going to be a team effort game on the defensive end. They’re a team who just goes and those two guys, they get it going and they’re tough to stop. We have to a great job defensively as a team to stop those guys. We’ll be looking forward to that.”

In order to get back to .500, and more importantly to continue forging an identity, the Thunder has to find a way to put an entire game together. So far this season the trend has been that Donovan’s group gets off to an incredible start, then the consistency, focus and discipline wanes over the course of the 48 minutes.

That’s to be expected with so many new faces trying to all get on the same page and work through the oppositions adjustments. It’s a process that takes time, but the Thunder is trying to get to the point where that problem solving on the floor is second nature, and not something players have to think about on the fly.

“We’re very instinctive players. I think now, we’re not playing like that,” Anthony explained. “Towards the end of the game we start thinking about it. We want to get somebody going and get somebody a shot. That’s where the game gets confusing.”

“We’ve gotten up 10-plus points in the first half because we’re just playing, we’re flowing instinctively,” Anthony continued. “Once it starts to get bogged down and teams start making that adjustment and we have to execute and make plays, we’re looking at who’s going to make the play, who should make the play. That’s where the thinking game comes in, and we have to get away from that.”

Adams' Insightful Film Study Explanation

After Friday night’s loss to the Spurs, Adams gave a detailed explanation as to how film work is such an integral part of the improvement process. For players, and coaches too, being on top of the action and in the heat of the battle is one thing. Seeing it on the television or laptop is an entirely different animal. The perception of how things look on the court compared to how it looks when watching it later can be drastically unalike.

“It’s way easier to teach once you see what you were doing because you perceive it differently as a player when you’re out there. Watching the video definitely helps me and the rest of these dudes as well,” Adams explained. “It changes that feeling. Whatever position you’re in, that’s what it is in your mind. Other people watching it, it’s not.”

Adams even provided an example, regarding his pick and roll defense. Sometimes when he’s on the court, he thinks he’s up higher on the court, at the level of the screen, than he actually is. In his mind, he’s in the right position, but when he sees it on film, he’s two feet further back than he realized.

“It’s seeing it, understanding it, and then next game if you’re bloody smart enough, you’ll get up there.” Adams quipped.

Nick's Notebook

- In the build up for the Pelicans game, the Thunder made the trip back to Oklahoma City from San Antonio and held two practice sessions at the INTEGRIS Thunder Development Center. Because of the earlier start to the season and the shortened training camp, there are more days in between games, giving the team more opportunities to get players rest, while also getting in some crucial practice time. The medical staff is heavily involved in the process to ensure that players aren’t overextending themselves and are balancing rest and on-court work.

  • “I always rely on them and trust them in their opinions as they evaluate where these guys are at physically,” Donovan said of the medical staff.

- Most of Anthony’s offensive opportunities so far this season have come either on catch-and-shoot jumpers or post ups, but a new wrinkle was introduced on Friday in San Antonio. On a few occasions, Anthony acted as a playmaker at the top of the key while coming around an Adams screen. Scoring or passing out of the pick-and-roll is something Anthony anticipates adding to the team’s repertoire more as the season rolls along. That will allow Russell Westbrook to play off the ball some, where he can be deadly as a cutter and offensive rebounder.

  • “Honestly I feel very comfortable in those situations,” Anthony said. “I feel like I’m going to make a play for myself or for somebody else and be effective in that pick and roll. That’s something I’ve been doing throughout my career.”

Watch: Thunder-Pelicans Preview

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