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Observations from the Thunder's preseason win over Utah

by Darnell Mayberry Published: October 20, 2013

 

A few takeaways from the Thunder’s 88-82 exhibition win over the Jazz on Sunday.

  • To me, this game boiled down to the Steven Adams-Enes Kanter matchup. It was the first chance to see Adams match up against quality competition for extended minutes. Each of his previous quality outings had the cloud of crummy competition hanging over them: Spencer Hawes. Lavoy Allen. Gani Lawal. Timofey Mozgov. Greg Stiemsma. Arinze Onuaku. Some dudes from Turkey. There were brief encounters with JaVale McGee and Anthony Davis, but by and large Adams hadn’t gone up against anyone yet. That all changed Sunday. And not only did Adams not disappoint, but he actually dominated Kanter in their 18 minutes against each other, stringing together yet another encouraging preseason effort that surely will lead to even more calling for regular season minutes for the rookie.
  • Adams scored four points on 2-for-4 shooting with seven rebounds (three offensive), two blocks (both coming on Kanter), one steal, one foul and one turnover while matched up against Kanter.
  • Kanter scored two points on 1-for-5 shooting with two rebounds and one foul while matched up against Adams.
  • Scott Brooks on Adams: “He’s been giving us good minutes. I thought he had another active game. He needs to continue to play like that.”
  • Adams finished with six points and a game-high 10 rebounds.
  • It was his second straight double figure rebounding game.
  • In five preseason games, Adams is averaging 13.6 rebounds per 36 minutes. For comparison’s sake, Dwight Howard’s career high is 13.9 rebounds per 36 minutes.
  • Late in this game, Adams held his own against Derrick Favors, too.
  • One of the most impressive things about Adams at this point is he’s having success despite having very little knowledge about his opponent. “I don’t actually know all the players and who’s considered skilled and whatnot,” Adams admitted after the game.
  • That perhaps explained why Adams did something I had never seen before in pregame. He pulled up a chair and spent much of his pregame sitting in the middle of the locker room, directly in front of the projection screen studying tape of the Jazz.
  • Adams on how he’s playing well despite unfamiliarity: “The main thing is, even with our team, we don’t really play to (the opponent). No matter who it is, we’re going to play how we play. So that’s the mindset I take. I don’t care who I’m facing, I’m just going to play how I play, which is run, get rebounds and play defense.”
  • Reggie Jackson on Adams: “I knew he was good. But I didn’t know he was this good and this hungry. He’s just determined to get better. His approach to the game, he’s a sponge. He just wants to work hard.”
  • Adams set some incredible screens on John Lucas III tonight. They completely swallowed him up and took him out of the play. Each one allowed Jackson to squirt free for one scoring opportunity after another.
  • Adams said after the game that he feels like he’s improving. He credited his work with assistant coach Mark Bryant as a leading reason. He also said he asks Bryant a ton of questions about what he did right and wrong and what he needs to learn each time he exits the game.
  • Asked his favorite aspect of the game, Adams matter-of-factly said winning. When pressed to point out a specific area that leads to that goal, Adams turned giddy over execution of offensive and defensive plays, when the entire team does something properly to either score or stop the opponent from scoring.
  •  

    Then Adams was asked if he is satisfied with his preseason showing thus far. “I’m never pleased,” Adams said. “I always try to stay hungry.”

  • I’m creeping closer to the Adams bandwagon. I first needed to see him do it against quality competition. Tonight was a step in that direction. Now I’d like to see him do it in a real game. Beyond that, Adams’ minutes still are being determined by Brooks, which leaves me leery of him seeing the court. What Brooks will do with the backup minutes is becoming a fascinating question, and it’s all a credit to Adams.
  • Andre Roberson might have tasted one of his first “Welcome to the NBA” moments tonight. Gordon Hayward lit him up. Tough night for Roberson, who finished with two points on 1-for-4 shooting and just three rebounds before fouling out in 24 minutes. Hayward, using a host of off-ball screens, ran Roberson ragged and finished with 18 points on 6-for-14 shooting.
  • Brooks after the game praised Roberson for playing hard and playing with consistent effort. And Brooks was right. What happened to Roberson tonight wasn’t from a lack of trying.
  • Terrific bounce-back game for Jackson. He had a team-high 18 points with six assists, three rebounds and no turnovers. On the way he ended the game Thursday against New Orleans, Jackson said “I felt like I let my team down. But I was happy to at least be in the position to try to help my team. I got to get better, especially late game picking things out.”
  • Jackson was 3-for-3 from 3-point range tonight. The rest of the team: 1-for-13.
  • Jackson on the difference in his 3-point shot this year: “I feel more confident. I feel more relaxed. I just feel I’m in a better position to do so. I understand that you have to take some outside shots, and no matter what people say around you that you just have to be confident in your game. I think that’s the biggest thing that I’ve learned so far going into my third year.”
  • The Thunder threw out a zone in the first half. Utah immediately nailed a few 3s, forcing the Thunder to get out of it. “That’s something that we haven’t worked on a lot,” Brooks said. “But that’s something that we’ll throw out there every now and then.”
  • Nick Collison was fantastic tonight.
  • Serge Ibaka got off to a slow start with his shot. But with some late minutes finished up with a great game, scoring 17 points on 7-for-14 shooting with eight boards and four blocked shots. He had a stretch where he was trying to erase every shot that was put up.
  • I would be surprised if Kevin Durant plays Tuesday at Phoenix. My guess is we see a lot of Perry Jones III, who did not play tonight. I sort of wonder of Durant is done for the rest of the preseason. We’ll see.
  • Up next: at Phoenix on Tuesday.

-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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