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Observations from the Thunder's preseason loss at Phoenix

by Darnell Mayberry Published: October 23, 2013

A few observations from the Thunder’s 88-76 loss at Phoenix on Tuesday.

  • Steven Adams continues to impress. He did so many things well tonight that I couldn’t keep up with my Twitter updates. In 26 minutes off the bench, he scored 10 points and had eight rebounds, made four of six shots and made an even bigger impact with his energy and hustle.
  • In 20 combined minutes, the Thunder’s other two centers, Kendrick Perkins and Hasheem Thabeet, combined for two points and seven rebounds. That should not only illustrate how effective Adams was, but it should also emphasize the dilemma Scott Brooks could soon be faced with. This young fella is making a strong case to crack the rotation, whether it’s Thabeet’s backup minutes or Perk’s first-string duty.
  • But before anyone gets all crazy about Adams, let’s keep in mind he’s doing this in the preseason. Five strong exhibition performances isn’t going to sway Brooks, and it shouldn’t. For the most part, Adams still hasn’t played against upper echelon talent or shown that he can be the team’s defensive anchor as its last line of defense. Additionally, as someone noted to me tonight, opponents are not yet familiar with Adams, meaning these encouraging efforts could come to an end once the real games begin and the scouting report circulates. Of course, that’s not to say Adams can’t keep this up. It just means we all need to give it time and see if he can.
  • With that being said, Adams just gives the team a different boost. He does things others on this team can’t and has skills that have never been seen from a Thunder center. I could run down a long list of things that Adams did tonight that the box score doesn’t show.
    1. On one of his first defensive possessions, against Marcin Gortat, Adams forced a baseline fall-away jumper and contested it wonderfully.
    2. He played straight up against Miles Plumlee in the post, regularly forced tough shots and contested them well.
    3. He dove on the floor at least twice for loose balls, recovering the rock both times and saving possessions. (Adams is quickly proving he almost always wins a battle for the ball in a scrum.)
    4. He kept possessions alive by getting his paws on offensive rebounds. He had a game-high five tonight. (Did you know that 24 of Adams’ 49 rebounds this preseason have come on the offensive end?)
    5. After battling for one offensive rebound but losing, he ran back on defense like deer, keeping himself in the play even though it was a fast break. (He wound up fouling the shooter but his effort was fantastic.)
    6. On an early fourth-quarter possession, he hedged out on Suns point guard Ish Smith so well on a high pick-and-roll that Smith stepped on the out-of-bounds line near the Thunder bench while looking for an escape.
  • I cannot wait to see what Brooks does with Adams. In case you can’t tell, I’m thoroughly impressed with the young man. But, again, it’s preseason, he hasn’t really played against anybody and nobody really knows him. Before I go calling for more playing time for Adams, I’d like to see him do it when those three things are no more.
  • Reggie Jackson didn’t have a particularly good game. He played hard and played through it, which I loved. And, again, his final stat line (game-high 18 points, 7-for-17 shooting, three rebounds, four assists, two steals and two turnovers) was awfully impressive for a guy who (in my opinion) struggled. The biggest thing with Jackson, aside from shaky defense on Eric Bledsoe, seemed to be indecisiveness. It appeared that he didn’t know whether to shoot, drive, pull up or pass. He was hesitant doing all of the above and that can’t be, especially if athletic guards like Bledsoe are overplaying him like Bledsoe did tonight.
  • One thing Jackson did do incredibly well tonight was finish. He made some amazing layups after weaving through traffic. Homeboy’s body control and English leaves you speechless.
  • Jackson’s shooting percentage would have been better had he not hoisted six 3s and made only one. The one he made was a nice, confident stroke that looked good the whole way. Many of the five he missed had that hesitation I’m speaking of.
  • As a team, the Thunder shot 2-for-19 from downtown. Hard to read too much into that seeing as how Kevin Durant and Derek Fisher didn’t play. Still, it continues a disturbing preseason trend. In six games, the Thunder is now shooting 31 of 116 from 3-point range, or 26.7 percent.
  • Jeremy Lamb was 0-for-3 from beyond the arc and struggled again with his shooting in general. He started 1-for-7 before heating up in the second half and making his next three shots. Lamb missed a technical foul free throw at one point and clasped his hands together hard in frustration. It seemed to be one of those animated expressions that perhaps confirmed his shooting struggles could be getting to him. Long after the game, Lamb sat at his locker, fully dressed in his street clothes, just looking forward, quiet, thinking. I asked him if he was all right and he shook his head yes. It looked to me like he could have used a pep talk.
  • One thing I wonder about Lamb is whether he’s adjusted to the speed of the NBA game. He makes some great moves, but then tosses up weak sauce at times, only to watch it get rejected or contested. Wonder if he’s been able to get away with that all his life and now he’s facing a different level of athleticism that he simply hasn’t adjusted to. If so, it’s a good sign in my eyes. Tells me it’s easily fixable. All he needs is time.
  • Lamb’s game-high nine rebounds were impressive. He has a knack for skying in and grabbing boards.
  • Lamb looks like a long, rangy 2-guard most of the time. Then he matched up with Gerald Green. My goodness! That’s a long, rangy 2-guard.
  • For a while, Green turned this game into a personal showcase of his dunking ability. He had two awesome finishes and a third dunk attempt that rimmed out.
  • Without Durant and Russell Westbrook, the Thunder’s offense tonight stunk. It turned into a two-man game featuring Jackson and Serge Ibaka. Everybody else looked like they sorely needed KD and Russ, which is quite possibly the case. The Thunder shot 38.5 percent, turned it over 22 times, missed 10 of 24 free throws and couldn’t manufacture much of anything in the halfcourt.
  • In the first half, Jackson and Ibaka combined to take 20 of the Thunder’s 45 shots.
  • The lone positive was that Jackson and Ibaka got to work on weaknesses and develop in other areas. I focused most on Ibaka’s offense tonight.
  • Serge wasn’t great by any means, but he did show flashes of things that could someday become a part of his arsenal. He put the ball on the floor more frequently and posted up. (Read the story I did on him for a full report.) All in all, he wasn’t bad. It wasn’t always pretty, but the fact that Ibaka is being aggressive and proactive in trying to expand his game is encouraging.
  • Ibaka: “Some nights are tough like tonight. But the good thing about it is I’m more aggressive. The preseason is good for us. That’s how you learn. I’m sure everything I’m doing right now in the preseason, good and bad, I’m going to learn from and be better when we start the season.”
  • Alex Len is huge. I had no idea he was that tall. He’s almost Thabeet’s size.
  • I really thought the Thunder should have drafted Archie Goodwin.
  • But the two players on the Suns I’d really love to be able to watch every night are Goran Dragic (who didn’t play in this one) and P.J. Tucker. If you’ve ever seen them play I don’t have to explain.
  • Brooks says cuts are coming.
  • Up next. Chicago on Wednesday in the preseason finale.

-DM-

by Darnell Mayberry
OKC Thunder Senior Reporter
Darnell Mayberry grew up in Langston, Okla. and is now in his third stint in the Sooner state. After a year and a half at Bishop McGuinness High, he finished his prep years in Falls Church, Va., before graduating from Norfolk State University in...
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