Kiwi Steve in the NBA #2: Solo Handshakes

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BOX SCORES

at LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS (L 108-92):

33 MINS | 17 PTS (8/11 FG, 1/2 FT) | 18 REB (6 OFF) | 1 STL | 3 PF

vs SACRAMENTO KINGS (L 131-120):

34 MINS | 10 PTS (3/7 FG, 4/8 FT) | 14 REB (8 OFF) | 2 STL | 3 BLK | 3 TO | 4 PF


NEXT WEEK

vs BOSTON CELTICS, Friday at 1.00pm (NZT)

vs PHOENIX SUNS, Monday at 12.00pm (NZT)

vs LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS, Wednesday at 1.00pm (NZT)


at LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS (L 108-92)

The opening game defeat to the Warriors was expected. The defending champs at home, the Thunder on the road missing their best scorer and best defender. They played a brilliant third quarter thanks to Paul George and got a lot of pride outta that but they lost and nobody was surprised.

The Clippers were a better opportunity, even with Russell Westbrook and Andre Roberson still missing, but then Paul George came out missing shot after shot and all of a sudden reality shifted and the Clips were up 16-0 after three and a half minutes. Fast forward to the end of this game and the Thunder lost by exactly 16 points. They gave the Clips a head start and that was the difference in the game. The Clippers, to be fair, may have moved beyond Lob City but they’ve still got a very solid starting five, with Patrick Beverley, Avery Bradley, Dan Gallinari, Tobias Harris and Marcin Gortat giving pleeeeenty of excellent defence and a little bit of scoring too as long as Gallinari’s hitting his triples – he was 4/5 in this game.

But this was a concern for the Thunder, no doubt about it. Terrance Ferguson is struggling as a starter, Patrick Patterson is anonymous and Dennis Schröder, who played well in the first game, shot 2 of 15 in this one, albeit with 8 assists. Not enough of those to Kiwi Steve though, who sat down for his first quarter rest with an 11-point deficit and zero shot attempts.

Billy Donovan must have noticed because he bagged a layup on the very first play after he checked back in early in the 2Q. The Thunder’s starters may have wet the bed but the bench did a lot to steady them, helped by the Clippers easing up on the buckets, and after Adams dunked from a PG assist, Ferguson drilled a pull-up from 27-feet to tie it up at 35-all. It was only a Gallinari shot from five feet with 1.6 seconds on the clock that had the Clippers up 48-46 at the half.

And then just like in game one OKC flipped it in the third. Paul George did that thing again when he turns back into his usual self, seeing the benefit of really working for his shots. It’s understandably that the Thunder would struggle to execute their offence without their leader on that side of the ball but not sure that excuses what happened in the last six and a half minutes of this one. After Paul George drilled a triple to tie it up at 90-all, Lou Williams answered with a three of his own and the Thunder trailed the rest of the way. Not only that but the Clippers ended this game on an 18-2 run… those two points coming from a storming Adams dunk after he’d kept a PG13 miss alive off the offensive glass.

Say one thing about Steve this season, he’s rebounding like an absolute champion and this time at both ends. Six offensive boards is nothing flash for him, it’s only a little above his average last season. It’s the 12 defensive ones that are the real kicker – although many will blame that on Westbrook’s absence.

Clippers win it 108-92. Paul George ended with 20 points from 7/27 shooting while Steven Adams had 17 points and 18 rebound despite it being a game where he didn’t really seem to be utilised as much as he should have (particularly with Westbrook missing… but then Russ is usually the one facilitating him anyway so that’s a catch-22). Ray Felton had 12 off the bench and Alex Abrines 10 but not much else to enjoy. Nerlens Noel had another solid bench cameo, at least (9 pts, 5 reb in 15 mins). For the Clippers it was undoubtedly the forward pairing of Gallinari and Harris who bossed it, with 26 points each. The rest of their starting five shot a combined 4/18 but, nah, they still won easy. 17 points off the bench or Lou Williams too.

Thunderous Intentions: “Adams did not receive a single shot in the first quarter and hit his first two minutes into the the second. Whether its rolling to the rim or isolating in the post, OKC cannot afford to wait eight minutes to give the big man a shot. As it stands, Adams is averaging 17 points,14.5 rebounds, two assists and 1.5 steals on 60.9 percent shooting. Moral of the story? Get this man the ball.”


vs SACRAMENTO KINGS (L 131-120)

The state of Oklahoma let out a combined sigh of relief as Russell Westbrook was cleared to play in the first home game of the season. It had been said closer to the time of his surgery that he might miss a couple weeks of the season but in the end it was only two games. But as nice as that was, after four quarters against the much maligned Sacramento Kings it was clear that they need Andre Roberson just as much.

Like, the Kings aren’t even good. There are some solid players there and it’s an interesting team, certainly better than the reputation that franchise has earned since the latter days of Boogie Cousins in Sactown… but a team with playoff expectations needs to be beating them at home. So where did it all go wrong?

Defence, defence and more defence. You score 120 points at home and you should win every day of the week. Let alone losing by 11 points. But that’s what you get yourselves in for when you allow the Kings, the bloody Kings, to score 34 points in each of the first two quarters. One of the reasons for that was having three of their best defenders, Paul George, Nerlens Noel and, yes, Steven Adams… all committing three fouls in the first half – George committing his fifth in the late-third quarter. it’s not only about the minutes spent on the bench because of that but the timid mentality that comes with knowing you can’t be too physical because the refs are blowing the whistle tonight.

At least this time they didn’t dig a hole to climb out of, they did actually keep pace with the Kings for most of the first with Russell Westbrook charging to the hoop like he hadn’t missed all of preseason. Paul George was better here too, shooting 10/18 for 29 points. Russ scored 34 with 12 rebounds and 8 assists on 13/23 shooting (numbers that would be even better without his 1/6 three point effort). But Ferguson was missing (1/7 for the night), Patterson was missing (1/6), Grant was missing (3/12) and Schröder was missing (5/16).

Welcome To Loud City: “Steven Adams was a non-factor on offense, largely due to a sudden dearth of high screen action by the Thunder. I don’t know if that’s intentional or not, but Adams is far too talented offensively to be ignored, even against a springy defender like Cauley-Stein. Furthermore, he was often left on an island defensively because OKC’s defensive rotations were so poor.”

Bugger it, OKC got close a few times but when you let a team shoot 54.9 percent from the field then you’re in trouble any day of the week. And the Thunder are in trouble every day of the week at the moment as they chill at 0-3, one of only a handful of winless teams still remaining. Now, it’s a long season and they’ll surely hit some form eventually. They’ve always been a streaky team under Billy Donovan.

Part of the problem is down to injuries. Even after Russ came back, you’ve still got to accept that he missed all of preseason and won’t be in perfect shape. Steven Adams was questionable with that back thing for the first game too and you never know with that dude how much pain he’s really in because you’ll never see it expressed on his face, the tough guy. His early rebounding is right up there with the best in the league and the Thunder are again right up there in offensive boards (first in the NBA at the mo’ with 16.3 per game).

But they’re not doing much with them. Here’s a stat that’ll get ya: the Thunder have attempted the most field goals per game in the NBA but at the worst FG% in the NBA (39% after three games). That includes being the worst 3P% side out there with a shocking 26/109 so far – 23.9%. Put simply, that has to improve for this team to do the same. And it should, three games is still a small sample size. Probably best not to get into their defensive stats since they’re all kinda awful. It doesn’t get any easier with the Boston Celtics next but then what better way to make a statement?

Thunderous Intentions Player Grades: STEVEN ADAMS (B)

“Let me preface this by stating I still don’t think the Big Kiwi is back to 100 percent. The upcoming four days off with a game on the fourth night should afford the big man some time to heal. Although the squad needs to get in time on the practice court hopefully the powers that be will just send Adams to the medical team so he can undergo procedures to help him heal.

The other key to mention here is with the league leaning toward small ball the one major asset OKC need to take advantage of is the Westbrook – Adams pick and roll. It’s not being run enough. Instead of hoisting 39 triple attempts why not force your opponent to stop Adams inside? If nothing else it will garner free points and that will lead to opening up the perimeter.

Adams finished the night with a double-double of 10 points and 14 boards, eight of which came on the offensive glass. Now ask yourself how many touches Adams got — seven—- SEVEN! That’s no where near enough touches for a guy who (when healthy) will deliver on more than 50 percent. Come on Billy use the assets and advantage you have at your disposal!”


SLAM DUNKS

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: “In retrospect, it made perfect sense as a question for Adams, who even claims that he was told not to shoot [at Pitt], or else he’d be benched. Sounding strikingly similar to the criticism many fans at the time, and still now, lobbed toward Dixon, Adams tells how he worked for years to expand his skills, only to see them underutilized.”

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