Be Decisive, Disciplined on 'O' – INTEGRIS Game Day Report: OKC at SAS

By Nick Gallo | Thunder Basketball Writer | mailbag@okcthunder.com

Broadcast Information

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

SAN ANTONIO – There have been some opponents this season that the Thunder has played poorly against, but managed to defeat because of a talent advantage. There have been times that the Thunder has played well, and gotten the result to show for it. In order to win on Friday night against the San Antonio Spurs, the Thunder may have a talent advantage in some areas, but is going to have to do more than just play well.

It's going to have to be excellent in one area that’s been a supreme focus all season long.

“Execution,” forward Paul George noted, in a word. “This is one game where we can’t get comfortable at any point. They execute the heck out of the ball. Regardless of who is in uniform, in San Antonio they always know how to play great basketball.”

The Spurs haven’t had Kawhi Leonard or Tony Parker, but it boasts a veteran-laden frontcourt with LaMarcus Aldridge and Pau Gasol along with newcomer Rudy Gay and Spurs stalwarts Danny Green and Patty Mills.

“Where we’re trying to get to, the focus should just be about us,” George explained. “That’s what coach (Billy Donovan) has been preaching, how do we get to a level where we’re not worried about the opponent. It’s becoming the best that we can be. That should really take over games, if we can get consistency from a team standpoint. Regardless of who we’re matched up against, there’s a certain level we all need to play at and be at.”

“It’s going to come down to us putting a full 48 minutes together,” George continued. “We have to have a professional approach regardless of who is in and who is out in their jerseys.”

Thunder Talk: Paul George

One thing the Thunder has to avoid at all costs against the Spurs, who come in allowing the third fewest points per game in the NBA, is being easy to defend. When all five defenders can load up to one Thunder offensive player who has the ball and there’s no movement or distraction happening, scoring at an efficient rate is nearly impossible. As it saw in stretches of the first but moreso in the second half against Chicago are examples of players stopping the ball.

“I think where we get stagnant is when we hold it and we size up our guy and we allow the defense to move across and there’s not a lot of movement,” Donovan described. “Those are the ones that are tough.”

“When you’re holding onto it and you’re dribbling or you’re trying to size your guy up to create something, that’s a lot of times when the floor gets balanced and it takes away space,” Donovan added.

Thunder Talk: Coach Donovan

The ball is just an inanimate object, but it is most powerful as a scoring tool when it has life behind it, an energy and verve created from movement, aggressiveness and a willingness to trust the next man with it. A lot of that juice comes from an intentionality and decisiveness. While role players certainly have the ability to play that way, the tone is set by how the Thunder’s best players – Russell Westbrook, Paul George and Carmelo Anthony – attack the defense. Donovan has seen stretches of exactly that type of action this season. He and the Thunder just want more of it, for longer portions of games.

“The one thing we want to be able to do is to be able to attack quickly and go quickly,” Donovan said, before referencing his three All-Star caliber players. “With those guys’ ability offensively when they do that more often than not they’re going to generate a relatively good shot for themselves or they’re going to get two on the ball and they can move it,” Donovan said.

“The biggest thing I like is when they go, and they go aggressively, they force double teams,” Donovan concluded. “When they force double teams, that’s where you get a lot of good, open looks.”

1-on-1: Andre Roberson

Nick's Notebook

- In reference to the type of aggressive, decisive offense that Donovan is looking for, the Thunder’s head man referenced a fourth quarter play started with a Westbrook post up, and after the double team came over and the Thunder point guard moved the ball, all it took was one more pass to produce a wide open George three-pointer. Another example of the type of action Donovan is looking for came in the first quarter, with the second group on the floor, when an Alex Abrines drive produced four passes around the perimeter, a scrambling defense, and a wide open corner three for Patrick Patterson.

  • “We ran some action and we didn’t get anything out of it, but the floor was spaced correctly,” Donovan described. “Alex did a good job of driving the ball from the slot. When you can get two on the ball and move the ball, you’re generally going to get a good shot.”

- Center Steven Adams participated in the non-contact portions of Thunder practice on Thursday, although the team as a whole didn’t do very much contact work during the session. On Friday morning at shootaround, Donovan announced that Adams will be available for the game.

- The pleasant surprise of the early season has been Jerami Grant, who has been a productive and dynamic player on both ends of the floor. He’s averaging 9.1 points per game on 47.8 percent shooting from the field. Although he has only knocked down 7-of-28 three-pointers, Grant is also averaging 4.8 rebounds, an uptick from last year. That’s a good sign given that the backboards were an area of focus heading into the season.

  • “I knew were going to play a little small ball. Going in, I knew I had to be aggressive on the defensive and offensive rebounds,” Grant explained. “I wanted to go in and get as many as I can.”

- In addition to his work above the rim and off the glass, Grant has done something else at a higher level this year than in past seasons: take charges. So far this season through just 14 games, Grant has already taken six charges, tied for the third-most in the NBA. He’s been in position early and slides his feet when guarding on the ball, and has the athleticism and footspeed to make up for problems on the backside of the defense.

  • “There’s an art to taking charges and he does a really good job with it,” Donovan said of Grant. “He knows when to go up and go vertical and try to challenge shots at the rim and he also understands when he doesn’t have the ability to go do that but he can move his feet and get his shoulders square to the ball and create those opportunities to get some charges.”

We’re deep in the heart of Texas tonight. #ThunderUp

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