Summer League Recap: Thunder vs. Nets

GAME IN REVIEWBy Nick Gallo | Thunder Basketball Writer

RECAP: ORLANDO – One of the purposes of Summer League action for the Thunder is to teach its young, developing players how to play “Thunder Basketball.”

On Thursday afternoon, the Summer League squad replicated the never-say-die attitude that the Thunder displays on a nightly basis, erasing a 13-point Brooklyn Nets lead methodically and systematically, giving itself an 87-86 victory and bringing its Summer League record to 2-2. While the outcome was great, what the Thunder coaching staff here in Orlando is looking for is the way the guys are playing the game. On Thursday, Cole Aldrich, Reggie Jackson, Perry Jones and Lazar Hayward got the day off because of heavy minutes in the first three games, which paved the way for other, lesser-known players to see some action.

“I love seeing those guys play because you know those guys are going to come in and play as hard as they possibly can,” Thunder Summer League Coach Mark Bryant said. “From one through 12, every guy came in and contributed and that’s the only thing we can ask for them to do. The minutes they’re on the floor, they go as hard as they possibly can. They did it, and they deserved that today.”

The player who seemingly made the most of his opportunity was the speedy, shifty point guard Dwight Buycks (pictured). He scored 22 points, including eight in the fourth quarter to go along with three assists in the final period. His playmaking ability on the offensive end was breathtaking at times and it allowed the Thunder to erase a 13-point deficit in the third quarter, in addition to helping the team outscore Brooklyn 17-8 over the final four minutes.

“Buycks is a tough little guard, he really knows how to play the game,” Bryant said. “He helped us out tremendously throughout this week and he’s getting better and better each game. The kid can score and he can pass the ball, he can do quite a few things.”

While the step-back jumpers, slashing layups and drive-and-kick passes by Buycks were attention-grabbing in their own right, it was predicated on the collective hard work displayed by the team throughout the second half.

The perfect microcosm of that dynamic played itself out in the final minute of the game, when Morris Almond, who finished with four points, came down with two massive offensive rebounds in the middle of the lane on the same possession. The second board that he grabbed, he then put into the hands of Buycks, who drove left to the center of the lane, spun and hit a fall-away jumper to give the Thunder the lead for good. It was a crucial play in a pivotal moment, and afterwards Buycks credited Almond.

“Really big, he definitely has a motor that is just non-stop,” Buycks said about Almond. “He was definitely out there fighting this afternoon. He didn’t want to lose, we didn’t want ourselves to lose. Plays like that really don’t stand out, but definitely everybody sees that and it gave me a chance to make a shot and I did.”

Another player who stepped up for the Thunder but didn’t receive much attention was center Gary McGhee, who was 4-for-4 from the field and 2-for-2 from the free-throw line in scoring 10 points. In addition, his work on pick-and-rolls was fantastic, as he freed up Buycks and Marquez Haynes for jumpers on numerous occasions. The former University of Pittsburgh standout said he wanted to show that he’s been working to improve a variety of aspects of his game, and that in his mind, this week with the Thunder has been a perfect way to continue his development as a player.

“It’s been a really great experience being with the organization,” McGhee said. “They definitely have a great facility, great coaches that look forward to developing their players. The coaches definitely have helped me on the side, helping me with a couple things to help my game and my development. So I definitely have been enjoying myself and taking advantage of this opportunity that I’ve had.”

TURNING POINT: The turning point in this game happened when the Thunder trailed 62-52 with 3:36 remaining in the third quarter, scoring five straight points on two John Holland jumpers to make it 62-57. A few minutes later, as the fourth quarter began, the Thunder cut a 66-61 lead and tied the game at 68 apiece with 7:01 remaining thanks to a James Mays free throw, a Dwight Buycks step-back jumper, a Mays layup off a Marquez Haynes assist and then a Holland jumper off a pass from Haynes.

The Thunder then trailed 75-70 with 3:55 remaining and proceeded to go on a 17-8 run to close out the game until the Nets’ Tyshawn Taylor hit a meaningless 3-pointer. Holland scored on a tough layup off a Buycks pass plus the foul, then Buycks found Morris Almond for a layup. Later, Garrett Temple made a steal and a layup, Buycks knocked down a 21-footer, Temple hit a jump shot and Buycks once again found a big under the basket, this time hitting Latavious Williams. With the game tied, Morris Almond then snagged two offensive rebounds that resulted in a Buycks turnaround jumpshot, and the Thunder sealed the game with two free throws.

PLAYS THE BOXSCORE WON'T SHOW, FIRST HALF: Morris Almond sticks with it and hustles to recover his own miss… Garrett Temple fights for a defensive board by tipping it to himself, then sneaks a nice bounce pass to Gary McGhee to draw a foul in transition… Dwight Buycks quickly drives to the bucket and finishes past a much bigger man… Gary McGhee with good patience and a nice post move on a hook shot in the lane… Nice use of a high screen by McGhee that results in a Buycks jumper, then Latavious Williams makes a steal out front and takes it home for a dunk… Strong box out by Ryan Reid to come down with a defensive board… James Mays with a strong put back off a big rebound then John Holland finishes in the secondary break… Big box out by Reid, then a pretty move in the lane to get a floater to go… Beautiful post move by McGhee on a hook shot on the block, then McGhee sets a screen for Marquez Haynes for a mid-range jumper… John Holland steps in a draws a charge… Buycks and Haynes trade driving, slashing buckets at the rim… Nice hustle by Holland to use his length to deflect a pass and disrupt the Nets’ timing.

PLAYS THE BOXSCORE WON'T SHOW, SECOND HALF: Pretty drive and dish by Buycks to McGhee underneath, resulting in a layup, then McGhee tracks down a loose ball and hits a hook shot on the other end… Temple strips the ball then follows up the fast break to get a put back with the foul… Unbelievably quick move from Buycks as he sped right to the bucket for an acrobatic finish… Buycks again scores a bucket by hanging in the lane and hitting a floater over a seven-footer… Slick reverse layup by Temple on a drive to the bucket then Reid, Holland and Williams pressure the ball underneath to force a turnover… Reid makes the right extra pass, then hustles back on defense and fouls to prevent a sure layup… Holland knocks down back to back jumpers as the Thunder cuts the gap… Reid sprints into a screen then knocks down the jumper on a pick-and-pop… Nice little screen and roll from Haynes and Mays that ends in a Mays layup… Buycks with an amazing fall-away jumper from the top of the key, then makes a steal up top that Mays follows up for a bucket… Holland squares up and hits a jumper off an inbounds play… Strong move from John Holland as he took a pass on the baseline and went straight to the cup through two men to score plus the foul… Pretty bounce pass from Buycks to hit Almond for a bucket at the rim… Temple makes a steal out of the in-bounds play and races down court for a layup, then Buycks knocks down a great mid-range jumper after shaking his man… Beautiful pass from Buycks to Williams underneath for an important layup… Almond with a big offensive rebound and draws the foul, then comes down with another one in the lane before Buycks knocks down a spinning jumper… Almond makes a basket-saving block down under the basket… Williams plays tough defense and then snags a defensive board to all-but seal the win.

BY THE NUMBERS: 3 Steals by Latavious Williams in addition to his four points and four rebounds 4 Offensive rebounds by Morris Almond, two in the last minute of the game 5 Rebounds for James Mays to go along with 7 points in only 12 minutes of action 7 Assists for Marquez Haynes on the day, part of 15 total Thunder assists 15 Points for John Holland on 6-for-11 shooting 22 Points for Dwight Buycks on the afternoon, on 10-for-15 shooting 50.7 Shooting position for the Thunder on the day 100 Shooting percentage for Gary McGhee on the day, who went 4-for-4 from the floor and 2-for-2 from the free throw line for 10 points

UP NEXT: The Thunder closes its Summer League schedule with a 7 a.m. CT game Friday against the Utah Jazz.