Start It Up Strong – Game Day Report: OKC vs. DET

By Nick Gallo | Thunder Digital Reporter |

Broadcast Information

  • Tip-off: 7 p.m. CDT
  • Television: Livestream on the Thunder Mobile App
  • Radio: WWLS the Sports Animal and the Thunder Radio Network

Players can only take so much of duking it out against one another at practice. After a week straight of competing heartily at the Thunder ION, Head Coach Billy Donovan’s club is eager to get out onto the court with an external foe. On Wednesday at Chesapeake Energy Arena, they’ll get their wish as the Detroit Pistons come into town for the first preseason game of the 2018-19 campaign.

At this stage of the game, there’s little scouting to be done. The Pistons have a new coach in Dwane Casey. Their All-Star center, NBA rebounding champion Andre Drummond, is shooting three-pointers now, apparently. Point guard Reggie Jackson is still working his way back from injury. Blake Griffin, with a summer in Detroit under his belt, will be a dynamic, bruising threat. And by the way, the Pistons haven’t put anything on tape for public consumption so far this preseason, so for the Thunder there’s only some personnel tendencies to look over to re-build those game-day preparation habits.

“We’ll have to see as the game’s going on,” Donovan said of the gameplan. “If we need to adjust as the game’s going on, we’ll do that, but really more than anything else it’s about are we executing the things we talked about needing to execute over the course of training camp.”

So instead of watching film the team will look internally, as it is anyway at this early stage of U.S. Cellular Training Camp. The material to work from is the Blue and White Scrimmage, at which Donovan said he was eager to take a second look to evaluate the defensive performance.

“We gave up too many threes in transition. That’s where a lot of them came from,” Donovan noted, referencing some of the 23 three-point attempts by the Blue team. “In the halfcourt, we were pretty good, but I thought in transition we did a good job of running back, we did a good job of getting back, but we didn’t do a good job at times of communicating and getting matched up.”

“You can always get better defensively,” echoed All-Star forward Paul George before outlining his constructive criticism of the other side of the ball. “Offensively we did a good job of opening the game with some tempo with some pace. As you saw, it kind of filtered out and it got a little slower. So that’s an area of improvement is just to sustain that energy for a whole game.”

Pace as an NBA term is overhyped, which is why the Thunder is using “tempo” to describe how it wants to get back in transition and build a wall of arms, then conversely play with assertive, quick decision-making on offense. Building towards that and showing progress in that regard would be a rewarding outcome against the Pistons compared to the scoreboard.

Donovan isn’t ready as of yet to make any proclamations about starting lineups or rotations. There are still just too many unknowns – like precisely when Russell Westbrook and Andre Roberson will return to play. Plus with each change to a lineup comes new circumstances to deal with, and Donovan and his staff will have to evaluate each one. For now, the coaches are looking forward to opportunities to get players more reps together as a group, and to try out unique pairings like Dennis Schroder with Raymond Felton as dueling point guards or Steven Adams alongside Nerlens Noel in the frontcourt.

“We’re gonna throw them out there five on five and let them play with each other and figure it out going forward,” Donovan said. “You want to give all these guys opportunities to play with different people together. The reality is that they all have to play together as a team.”

1-on-1: Hamidou Diallo

News & Notes

- Center Steven Adams will be tasked with wrestling with Drummond down all the block all game, and at shootaround he outlined why the Pistons’ center is such a tough cover. There’s a reason that he averaged 16.0 rebounds per game, including 5.1 on offense, that led to a remarkable 5.3 points per game off of second chances last season.

    o “Any big lad poses a threat. Especially with him, he’s very athletic. He gets off the floor very fast. He’s got a quick second jump as well. In terms of that, he’s just tough. He plays the pocket really well in pick and rolls,” Adams explained. “He’s an unbelievable rebounder. That’s because of the second hop, second jump.”

- Regardless of the matchups, there’s a firm mindset amongst the Thunder to focus only internally tonight.

    o “Pretty much just have some carryover from training camp,” Adams said. “All the stuff we’ve worked on, drilling, playing against each other, can we show that we got better and implement it in tonight’s game, when we don’t know what sets they’re running. It’s going to be random basketball in that sense. Reactive.”

- In the annual NBA General Manager survey, Adams was voted the “toughest” player in the NBA. Adams is always affable, and typically bashful when it comes to praise. His response was classic Kiwi.

    o “I don’t care mate. What does it mean? Do I get anything? Did I win? Do I get a bonus? That would be sick. It could mean anything mate. Toughness, I don’t know. It seems dumb. Whatever,” Adams rambled. “I don’t know. It’s such a weird thing to poll. Guys are just bored, I think. Honestly. There’s better things to think about, but whatever. Sure.”

Game Day Report


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