Orlando Observations: Day 2
The Thunder played its second game of the Orlando Pro Summer League on Tuesday and fell to the Indiana Pacers, 91-88, after beating Orlando on Monday’s opening day. OKC lost behind some obscure summer league rule that allows a team two foul shots for each foul an opposing player commits after his sixth foul. D.J. White was whistled for an offensive foul while trying to set a pick for Russell Westbrook at the top of the key in the closing seconds with the game tied, and 13th overall pick Tyler Hansbrough (I think) hit two free throws to put the Pacers up two with about 2.9 seconds left. The Thunder then fouled and some dude made one of two free throws for the final margin. James Harden missed a good look at the buzzer that would have tied it at 91-91.
But who really cares if you win or lose, right? The most important thing is the team’s young players got another chance to play together collectively and 40 more minutes of experience individually. And nobody on the Thunder walked out of the gym on crutches. Can’t say the same thing for Indiana’s Josh McRoberts.
View the box score here. As for my impressions……
Westbrook looked great throughout much of the first half, finding the open man and getting teammates the ball for wide open shots off his penetration. He also showed a more controlled pull-up jumper. But in the second half he struggled with turnovers, with a bad pass and palming and traveling violations in the third quarter alone. He also didn’t get where he wanted nearly as much as he did in the first half during the third quarter. But it was a product of a change in the offense. In the first half, the Thunder ran a lot of pick and roll and pick and pop, letting Westbrook read and react to what the defense did. There was much more ball movement in the second half, which allowed other players (mainly James Harden) to initiate something. In fact, the Thunder ran pretty much the same play the entire second half after running almost the same set for Westbrook in the first half. In the final half, White would set a screen for Westbrook, Westbrook would pass to White, White would dribble over and hand it off to Harden, and Harden would run pick and pop or roll with White, allowing Harden to become the facilitator. Basic stuff for summer league.
Westbrook finished with four assists in the first quarter. He got into the lane twice early, finding Harden for an open 3 on one possession and Kyle Weaver for a deep 2 on another. He also stole a pass and led a fast-break, which ended with an alley-oop to Serge Ibaka. He later hit B.J. Mullens off a pick-and-pop for a 17-footer at the end of the first quarter. Westbrook made up for his third quarter sloppiness by getting to the cup at will in the fourth and, with the help of Weaver and Harden, sparking a comeback for OKC, which trailed by as many as 12 (I think).
Harden played terrific. He looks great in the open floor. Not the fastest, as we’ve all heard by now. But he’s under control and makes the right play more often than not. He was a consistent perimeter shooting option for Westbrook out of ball screens and showed his versatility by leading the break a few times and hitting the open man in transition. He could very walk out of Orlando as the best rookie in this league.
It was good to see assistant coach Brian Keefe (who’s coaching the summer league team) switch up the offense and give Harden more opportunities to create in the second half. With Westbrook dominating the ball so much in the first half, Harden was reduced to being a bystander who could only sit and wait for a kick out. Same thing happened with Weaver. Because of that, it might not be a bad idea for the Thunder to sit Westbrook on Wednesday to let Weaver and Harden control more of the pace and tempo and work on their game management skills. But since Westbrook will not play in Vegas, they’ll have plenty of time and opportunity to get that experience this summer.
Weaver’s shooting stroke looks slightly quicker. I know it’s one of the areas he was looking to improve this summer. Still has a long way to go, but it’s a good first step considering he’s only had a little less than three months since the end of the Thunder’s season to concentrate on it.
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