Jazz 97, Thunder 81
Nuggets from my notebook from Friday’s loss at Utah.
- Perry Jones III, passive? Maybe so. But so far he’s been productive. That was the story of the game from my perspective. Sure, he has a tendency to get lost in the shuffle for stretches. But the guy is trying to fit in. He doesn’t have to be, and quite possibly doesn’t want to be, ‘The Man.’ In my opinion, that’s a perfect fit for this franchise.
- In my game story off tonight’s game (linked above), I pointed out a few of PJIII’s more impressive fundamentals, as well as how he impacts a game on both ends. So far, it’s the small things he does — like using his length to disrupt offensive players and maintaining proper spacing to prevent the paint from getting crowded — that stand out. He might never dominate at this level. But as the 28th pick, really, nobody should expect him to. If he can just improve at what he already does well — knocking down perimeter shots, contesting shooters and fighting for boards and loose balls — he’ll be a great addition.
- I’ll say this about PJIII. He must have took the torch from Eric Maynor and followed his lead from Wednesday night. Because homeboy was jacking 3s all game. I’m not sure that’s what he needs to be doing right now but, hey, he made two out of four so what do I know? Jones said he’s been working on his 3-ball every day with coach Mark Bryant and he’s confident in shooting it. Scott Brooks isn’t quite sold. “He’s definitely working on that,” Brooks said. “We like guys that can spread the floor. But you don’t want that to be his bread and butter shot because if you live on that line that line is hard to (hit from) consistently for 82 games.”
- Candid moment from Jones when I asked where he sees himself fitting into the offense. “To be honest, I don’t know,” Jones said. “We’ve got a lot of guys that can score. But if I’m ever open and my teammates give me the ball and feel like I can shoot the shot I’m going to shoot it for them.”
- On to Cole Aldrich. It’s never pretty with the big fella. But for the second time in as many games he notched a double-double with 11 points and 10 boards to go with three blocked shots. “Cole and the word pretty, that’s not a good combination,” Brooks said. “Cole and solid is what we like. It doesn’t look pretty, and that’s probably saying it very nicely.”
- If you can get over the ugly, somewhere in Aldrich’s game you might find an effective player. Offensively, we know he’s limited to the occasional jump hook and garbage buckets. But defensively, he’s going to make opponents work, by fundamentals or force (read hacking). And there’s something to be said for that. If Cole 45 can wear down his opponent over the course of the game, while scoring five to seven points, grabbing four to six rebounds and blocking a shot or two, hasn’t he done his job?
- I didn’t think Aldrich looked good at all against Al Jefferson tonight, though. That wasn’t even a fair fight.
- Reggie Jackson got the start tonight in place of a resting Russell Westbrook. The seven turnovers are an eyesore, but you can see the growth in Jackson. He’s more confident in himself and has a much better feel for what he needs to do as the floor general. Tonight, he had 10 points, seven rebounds, four assists and three steals. Am I the only one who sees Jackson capable of having similar stat lines (and better) regularly down the line? The guy is just so athletic that he’s going to put his imprint on the game — and in a lot of areas.
- Tonight, Jackson might have gotten a little too aggressive. Just before the end of the first half, Kevin Durant had to walk away before making a scene. KD was frustrated with Jackson for trying to do too much. Not sure if you could see it on television (those who had it available), but late in the first half Jackson kept the ball at the top of key despite Durant drifting out essentially right next to him and calling for it. Jackson went in for a floater and missed but got his own rebound and immediately kicked it to Durant. But then Jackson tried to snare a rebound and get off a last-second shot but ended up turning it over, allowing Chris Quinn to hit a buzzer-beater.
- Jackson: “I was disappointed in my performance, definitely. We got behind early and then we were just playing from behind. So it was difficult tonight for me. I was trying to make too many home-run plays instead of just making the single play.”
- We got our first glimpse of Jackson and Maynor in the backcourt together. Brooks said it was coming. I for one liked the way it looked. As for Jackson? “It went well,” Jackson said. “Whoever got the ball really just pushed it, and I think he did a great job getting us in sets. Even in free throws, we talked it over sometimes, maybe what we should get into. Sometimes he was calling my number and I was telling him, ‘no, no, no, go ahead, you got it.’ Other times, I was calling his and he was telling me it was my turn. I think we were just trying to work with each other and get better at that. We know it’s a possibility. We really don’t mind. Sometimes it’s good having two point guards on the floor.”
- Way too many turnovers for the Thunder tonight. I attribute much of OKC’s 21 to the funky lineups. But it’s not like the Thunder was great at taking care of the ball last year. So that’s the type of thing I would be leery of this preseason, not the final scores.
- The transition defense was dreadful as well. Utah wants to run more this season and walked off the court celebrating largely because it got 29 transition points.
- I thought the ball movement was great tonight. The Thunder made it a point to make the extra pass, and it was working well early. It continued throughout the game, but the shots weren’t dropping.
- Brooks said his guys took a bunch of bad shots tonight.
- If he played consistent minutes (or at all) this year, Hasheem Thabeet would challenge Westbrook for the title of “on the floor most often.” Dude is always falling down.
- The Thunder rebounded better tonight, although it couldn’t do anything but improve from Wednesday.
- Lazar Hayward got the start at shooting guard tonight, and I hate to say it but his performance might have sealed the deal of him not having his fourth-year option picked up by Oct. 31. He struggled mightily tonight, offensively, defensively and protecting the ball. His final line: six points, 1-for-6 shooting, four rebounds, three assists, two steals, five fouls and four turnovers in 27 minutes. He’s now 4-for-16 in two games this preseason. Making matters worse is he hasn’t offset his offensive struggles with impactful defense. Gordon Hayward had his way tonight, getting pretty much whatever he wanted (despite struggling with his shot on 3-for-10 shooting) and earning a game-high eight free throws.
- Brooks even talked about Hayward before the game and said he needed to start hitting shots. When he didn’t tonight, I think the writing pretty much stuck to the wall. “He has to just provide us some toughness on the defensive end. And he has,” Brooks said. “And be able to knock shots down. That’s one of the things that he has to do. He does it. He has to be able to do it in games.”
- Hollis Thompson was the first off the bench tonight. I’m sure he’s glad he got this one out of his system. Known for his perimeter shooting, Thompson was way off on his first 3 attempt from the right wing. He was clearly nervous. He settled down and finished up well, scoring six points with three boards. But I wouldn’t judge him off of this game.
- Serge Ibaka made his debut tonight and played well. As the only starter on the floor at times, Ibaka became a focal point in the post. He had a few nice moves but wasn’t dominant, which is about what you’d expect. Serge played with great energy, though, which is what he needs to do on this team. He had six of his 12 points and six of his seven rebounds in the first quarter.
- Ibaka took a corner 3 tonight off an extra pass from Thompson like it was part of the game plan. It might be. All the bigs seem to be interested in looking for their shot more and stretching the floor. So we’ll see.
- Maynor got pick-pocketed twice in the first half tonight. Not used to seeing that. He looked hesitant both times he got it stolen. For now, I’m attributing that to the lack of familiarity in these lineups rather than anything wrong with Maynor.
- Best guess. Westbrook starts Tuesday and Maynor is the first off the bench at point guard.
- Andy Rautins got some burn tonight. He missed his only shot, a beautiful drive and kick from KD that left Rautins wide open. It was hoisted from the corner right in front of the Thunder’s bench, and as soon as Rautins released it dang near every Thunder player got up like it was going down. It didn’t. Other than a foul, that was about the extent of Rautins’ night.
- Daniel Orton and Walker Russell are now the only available players on the training camp roster that haven’t played.
- Thabeet made five of six foul shots tonight. PJIII went 0-for-4. I just thought that was interesting.
- As the players were going into the locker room at halftime, a Jazz fan screamed at Orton calling him Westbrook. And the fan was certain that it was Russ.
- Brooks went sans hair gel again tonight, and the Thunder fell to 0-2. Coincidence? I think not.
- Up next. The preseason home opener against Charlotte on Tuesday.
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