Thunder 120, Bobcats 98
Nuggets from my notebook from Tuesday's win over Charlotte.
- A lot of real strong performances tonight. Before I say anything else, I'm obligated to say two things: it's the preseason, and it's the Bobcats. Still, let's not take anything away from how well the Thunder performed in this one, individually and collectively.
- Serge Ibaka set the tone with his energy, hitting the glass hard, patrolling the paint and getting putback buckets and and-ones that sparked the entire team. He's growing before our eyes on the offensive end, which is what I wrote for Wednesday's paper. He had 16 points and a game-high 10 rebounds.
- Defensively, there are still plenty of things Ibaka needs to prove. Pick-and-roll defense, man defense in the post and a commitment to staying out of foul trouble. But he's learning, and his history of hard work suggests he'll get it down.
- Thunder coach Scott Brooks on Ibaka: "He’s improved in his ability to communicate with the guys, his ability to pick things up on the fly and his ability to play with his instincts. You see that every night."
- Hopefully tonight more Thunder heads got to see why I'm driving the DeAndre Ligginsbandwagon. The guy is all heart, fearless of anyone and anything. Those two qualifiers I mentioned in my opening nugget? Throw them completely out when analyzing Liggins. Tonight, at various times his defense harassed Ben Gordon, Ramon Sessions, Gerald Henderson and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Liggins started at shooting guard in place of Thabo Sefolosha, and the final box score showed five points, six rebounds, one steal and one turnover on 2-for-2 shooting in 26 minutes. What it didn't show was his 17 hustle plays and 12 floor burns.
- Brooks on Liggins: "I think one play, he had four deflections. He's going to dive on loose balls, he's going to get every 50-50 ball, he's going to fight through screens, he's everything that you want from your players."
- Someone asked me to nugget my projected 15-man roster. Here goes. The 12 returning guys, plus Perry Jones, Hasheem Thabeet and...
- Daniel Orton.
- As much as I think Liggins is a perfect fit for the Thunder, especially given Sefolosha's recent track record with injuries, you just don't give up a chance to add an athletic big man who still has tons of potential. I've explained this before. Orton is 1) a big man with tons of potential left in him, 2) cheap and 3) insurance. I'd be shocked if the Thunder let him get away.
- Orton had a very nice debut tonight, too. He had 13 points on 5-for-6 shooting with three rebounds, an assist and a blocked shot in 19 minutes. You could see the IQ for which Brooks has lauded Orton. He just knows how to play the game, especially offensively. He knows how to be in the right spot, knows how to read and react to the defense and knows how to find the open man. On one possession, he caught a pass in the lane from Eric Maynor, watched the defense collapse onto him and made a sweet extra pass to PJIII for an uncontested dunk. Perk is the only other center on the roster that can do that.
- Here's much more on Orton.
- Brooks said about 43 times in his postgame press conference tonight that deciding on the 15th man is going to be a tough decision. He said this crop of camp invitees is the most talented he's ever had. What's interesting is the Thunder has a mix of everything and can take its pick of what it wants to add. Orton is an athletic big man. Liggins is a wing defender and hustle player. Andy Rautins is a shooter. Walker Russell Jr. is a traditional point guard. Hollis Thompson is a shooter and has the potential to be a defender. "We definitely have a lot of good choices," Brooks said. "We have guys that can do things that the other guys can't...It's whoever plays the best. Sam and I and the staff, we're going to make the decision in a couple of weeks."
- When Rautins gets rolling, look out. It's taken him a while to get comfortable, but he found his rhythm tonight was on fire, scoring a team-high 20 points on 7-for-10 shooting. He made four of his seven 3-point attempts in 24 minutes.
- Since his one shot attempt at Utah, you could see how bad the entire bench (starters) wanted Rautins to bury a 3-point bomb. They explode off the bench and floor as soon as he releases it. It's a product of the chemistry that this team has built in camp.
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