Kiwi Steve in the NBA #3: On The Board

gettyimages-1048468450.jpg

BOX SCORES

vs BOSTON CELTICS (L 101-95):

33 MIN | 12 PTS (5/10 FG, 2/6 FT) | 6 REB (3 OFF) | 2 AST | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 1 PF

vs PHOENIX SUNS (W 117-110):

DNP – Calf Tightness

vs LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS (W 128-110):

38 MIN | 18 PTS (8/15 FG, 2/4 FT) | 10 REB (4 OFF) | 2 AST | 3 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 1 PF


NEXT WEEK

at CHARLOTTE HORNETS, Friday at 12.00pm (NZT)

at WASHINGTON WIZARDS, Saturday at 1.00pm (NZT)

vs NEW ORLEANS PELICANS, Tuesday at 2.00pm (NZT)


vs BOSTON CELTICS (L 101-95)

First off, it’s okay. Things get better. The Thunder won’t go 0-82 and this early season slump will hopefully only be a blip on the way to better things. Hell, they wouldn’t even be the first team to make the playoffs after starting 0-4 if that should come to pass. But know before we proceed that this was a little bit of rock bottom in October.

Steven Adams on the Celtics: “They’re well-oiled. They pass the ball. They play with all five guys. That just means rotations, potential threats for rotations, drives… Constant cutters, off the ball cuts are really good. You just gotta take away their initial actions and play it from there to be honest.”

The Thunder were up by 16 points at half-time against a Celtics team who have also started slow but came into the season with championship aspirations. They’d missed all 11 three pointers in the first two quarters and were shooting at 32%, which isn’t gonna win you much in this league. Boston started 2/10 from the field and were down 15-4 after six minutes. Steven Adams had a couple early buckets, although he didn’t have his best shooting night. Missed a few hook shots and clunked a couple free throws in the second quarter. Al Horford often gives him trouble, Al Horford gives everybody trouble, but 13 points for Paul George and some impressive work from the bench cashed in for a 50-34 lead.

The Celtics entered this game averaging 99 points per game, the worst in the NBA by a distance. However the Thunder’s defence has been pretty generous lately and things flipped quickly in the third quarter. Boston came out and sunk seven of their next ten triples, dropping 40 points in the frame. Kyrie Irving and Al Horford did most of the damage. The Celtics went on a 19-4 run to close the third but with 4:22 remaining in the fourth they trailed 94-85. They then closed the game on a 16-1 run… the one point coming from a Steven Adams free throw.

This result left OKC as one of only two remaining winless teams, alongside Cleveland (who have since sacked their coach). That’s what you get when you’re the worst shooting team in the NBA in a year when scoring is going through the roof. They shot 39.4% from the field in this one and were 7/28 from deep. Even worse was the eleven free throws they missed in a six point loss (14/25). Adams missed four of them, he was the worst, but six different players missed FTs in this one. Paul George scored 22 points on 7/22 shooting, Russell Westbrook only had 13 points (5/20), granted with 15 rebounds and 8 assists. Jerami Grant had some okay numbers starting in place of the benched Patrick Patterson but not enough to salvage it. Jason Tatum topped with 24 points for Boston.

Thunderous Intentions: STEVEN ADAMS – A

“In my humble opinion the only Thunder player who deserves top grades for this match. Early in the contest he was leaking out to catch pitch ahead passes and working effectively in the post. His sheer size was too much for Al Horford to deal with as he picked up quick fouls and had to sit early. Despite being unstoppable in the post, particularly in the pick and roll sets he got a total of 10 touches. Maybe I’m being naive, but when you have an advantage shouldn’t the team keep going to that option until the opponent proves it can be stopped? If the OKC Thunder could add one perimeter scorer to space the court, then Adams becomes even more effective as his presence has to be accounted for which subsequently would open driving lanes and would give OKC scoring options.  (not that there seems to be an offensive system in place).”


vs PHOENIX SUNS (W 117-110)

An hour before the tip off against Phoenix, things were sweet and breezy. Then the Thunder went through warm-ups and all of a sudden Steven Adams started feeling something and we’re not talking about the holy spirit either… old mate had a touch of tightness in the calf and, to the utter devastation of daily fantasy players around the world, he was removed from the starting five. Not too long after that it was confirmed that he’d play no part in the game.

Gutted. Although as it happened they didn’t really need him. The Suns were on a losing streak and playing on the second night of a back to back without the service of Devin Booker. You could say the cards were stacked in OKC’s favour. Sure enough, Jerami Grant dunked with 3:49 left in the first quarter to give OKC a 19-17 lead and it was a lead that they never conceded. This time they held on to their 16-point half-time lead.

Not a whole lot else worth saying. Nerlens Noel had an excellent night scoring 20 points with 15 rebounds, six of them at the offensive end. Call that a top notch Kiwi Steve impersonation. Patrick Patterson also had a quality game with 17 points and Paul George and Russell Westbrook each had efficient 23 pointers.

The Athletic/Brett Dawson: “Steven Adams was a late scratch after experiencing left calf tightness prior to the game. The Thunder didn’t announce he wouldn’t start until just before tipoff and didn’t rule him out of the game until the second half. With Adams out, Noel stepped in and played his best NBA game in two years. He finished with 20 points and 15 rebounds, his first double-double since March of last season with the Mavericks and his first game with 20 or more points since February 2016, when he played for the 76ers.”


vs LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS (W 128-110)

And just like that the Thunder are rolling. Got that first win, welcomed back their big guy from Rotorua, and went out and pumped the Clippers thanks to an incredible third quarter. Steven Adams has already had lower back stiffness and now calf tightness. Way too soon in the season to wanna be battling through the injuries already, but he’s only missed one expendable game for them.

Some sharp-shooting actually got the Clips off to a hot start. Steven Adams tipped back in a Russ miss and then sunk one from the mid-range for OKC’s first four points but a 10-10 game became a double digit LAC lead soon enough. Adams played the entire first quarter before resting five minutes in the second, though it felt like he barely had another touch after his quick start and the Clippers were up 67-54 at HT. Shooting 55% and bringing the heat.

Except that’s exactly when the fun started. Steven Adams would score 14 points in the second half, really going to work with Russ on those pick and rolls like we always want to see. The Thunder played furious defence and unselfish offence. They’re never going to be a great jump shooting team but if you can get to the rim at that kinda pace then it doesn’t even matter. This was scintillating, ferocious, exhilarating. They began the third quarter on a 23-2 run and ended up outscoring the Clips by 29 points across the twelve minutes.

The Oklahoman: “First, Westbrook found Paul George for a 3-pointer a minute into the second half. Then he tossed an alley-oop pass to Steven Adams. He had two to Grant, one for that 3-pointer and one for a layup. The offense flowed out of a staunch defense as the Thunder out-scored the Clippers 39-10 in the third quarter. That 29-point difference was the largest single-quarter margin in Thunder history.”

As you’d figure, Russell Westbrook was the instigator and the main culprit. Paul George also brought the form that’s had him All-NBA in the past though, plus Funaki was never far from the action. Jerami Grant deserves some praise too. The defensive suffocation let up in the fourth but the offence continued on towards victory, Steven Adams had this one spell after he checked back in where he just kept on rolling to the basket and getting shot after shot. He scuffed a few of them but those dunks, bro, so good. Eight of his points came in that last quarter and you only have to take one glimpse at his shot chart to see how he was doing the damage…

Daily Thunder: “Steven Adams returned to the Thunder lineup on Tuesday after missing Sunday’s contest against Phoenix. Adams was joined by Westbrook, Terrance Ferguson, George, and Grant. Adams picked it up in the second half, as he ended the night with 18 points (8-of-15 from the field) and 10 rebounds.”

Also, Westbrook was playing fired up all game, constantly making this baby-rocking motion… which he later hinted alluded towards rocking little guards to sleep… little guards like his notorious nemesis Patrick Beverley. No real stunner then that the two clashed bad in the fourth, each getting technicals after Beverley dove at Westbrook’s knee (reminiscent of the 2013 playoffs when PB did something similar and blew out Russ’ meniscus… which you just know he’ll never forgive him for). Court security ended up helping separate the two teams.

Westbrook ended up with 32 points, 8 assists and surprisingly only 4 rebounds while Paul George matched him with 32 points and 12 rebounds. Steven Adams did a fair bit of a lot of things on the way to 18p/10r Dennis Schröder scored 15 off the bench. The Clippers were led by 27 points from Dan Gallinari, who torched them last time too, but on this occasion they kept Tobias Harris to just 15. Lou Williams had 17 off the bench.

Welcome to Loud City: “I’m sure many of our NZ friends thought this as well, but Steven Adams was practically nonexistent in the 1st half, barely touching the ball at all. And while Adams is not a 5-tool offensive player like Joel Embiid and Karl-Anthony Towns, he’s not bad, either. And when you run offense through him, he makes teams pay, and Westbrook remembered that. Adams finished with 18-10 with 2 assists and his screening and finishing plays were a catalyst for OKC, particularly in holding off the Clippers in the 4th.”

Thunderous Intentions: STEVEN ADAMS – B+

“The Thunder’s defensive performance couldn’t have been possible without their mountain in the middle, Steven Adams. It wasn’t the best game we have seen from the Big Kiwi, but he was a monster inside and stayed mostly out of foul trouble. Which for this game, seems like a small miracle. He finished the night with a more than solid 18 points and 10 rebounds (4 offensive). A big takeaway going forward with Adams play in tonight’s game is the threat of the lob pass. Numerous times in the second half, Adams was targeted for that pass or the Thunder played off of the threat of it. The success that they had doing so should not be overlooked.”


SLAM DUNKS

The Athletic/Brett Dawson: “The handshake salutes Collison, even if it’s not exactly the same routine Adams shared with his former teammate. “He does it quicker,” Patterson said. “He doesn’t stare off into the distance like as if Nick was there. They’d usually stare at each other for a solid five seconds. I’ve noticed he only does it for one quick second.” Adams took Patterson’s critique in the same good humor he takes most everything — “He can kiss my ass,” he joked — and called the handshake with Collison an “intimate” act that he’s transformed to tribute. “I miss him,” Adams said. “It’s R.I.P. to him — retire in peace.”

Support The Niche Cache by becoming a patron on our Patreon, good on ya

And as always whack an ad whenever you read something good