Thunder release Sebastian Telfair

telfair thunder

In a surprise move (at least, surprising to us), the Oklahoma City Thunder released point guard Sebastian Telfair after their game against the Jazz. Not only is the timing surprising, but also the fact that it was thought that Telfair had a fully guaranteed contract. That may still be the case, but if Telfair was released, and it is likely because he had a guarantee that was date-specific (i.e. the contract becomes fully guaranteed if the player is on the roster after Nov. 30th).

Telfair’s release coincides with the fact that Ish Smith’s 10-day contract was coming up to a close on Thursday. With Russell Westbrook set to return soon (possibly for their next game against the New York Knicks), the team probably decided that they’d rather go into the season with Smith as the 3rd string point guard. Smith is younger, but, more importantly to the Thunder, he’s probably a lot cheaper. Not only is he a lot cheaper in salary, but he’s also easier to get rid of, as he’ll probably just sign another 10-day contract on Thursday. If Westbrook proves to be healthy, then the need for Smith probably goes out the window in 2 weeks. Then, the Thunder could let Smith go, and gain their coveted empty roster spot that they like to go into the season with.

Telfair played well in spots for the Thunder during their tumultuous beginning of the season. He averaged 8.6 points and 2.9 assists on 36.4% shooting from the field. He provided a veteran’s touch when the going got tough for the Thunder. His professionalism and experience helped the team, and hopefully, some of the young guys learned a thing or two about being an NBA player from Telfair.

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Posted in News

Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Utah Jazz preview (Game 16 of 82)

Jackson Adams thomas Thunder hayward jazz

  • When: Wednesday, 26 November 2014 at 7:00 PM CST
  • Where: Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, OK

This latest stretch for the Oklahoma City Thunder has been a lot like the life of a career convict. Go to jail, get out, and do the same things to get put back in. For the Thunder, its been fall behind early, fight like hell to get back in the game, and eventually lose a close one at the end due to lack of offensive execution/weaponry. Well, this may be the final game for this Reggie Jackson-led group to win a game. With Russell Westbrook, and possibly Kevin Durant, available for Friday’s game against the New York Knicks, the heavy cavalry may be on its way with reinforcements.

This will be the second meeting of the year between these Northwest Division rivals. The Jazz beat the Thunder 98-81 in Salt Lake City over a week ago. The Thunder jumped out early in that game, leading 23-14 after the first quarter. But eventually, the Jazz wore out the Thunder in the next 3 quarters, using their depth and their size inside.

The Opponent

Oklahoma City Thunder v Utah Jazz

The Jazz come into the game with a 5-10 record, riding a 3 game losing streak in tonight’s game. Their last win came against the Thunder. The Jazz remind me of the young Thunder teams from years past, in that its a bunch of young guys coming up together and learning as a collective. Some of the more veteran Jazz players (and by veteran, I mean 3 years in the league or more) are just now starting to enter their primes and their games are starting to blossom. Gordon Hayward is slowly becoming that go-to scorer, Derrick Favors is a double-double waiting to happen, and Alec Burks seems to finally have found his niche in the league. Leading the charge is 2nd year point guard Trey Burke who is still taking his lumps, but continues to impress as a playmaker and defender. In the middle, Enes Kanter does a good job of controlling the paint and making the most of his opportunities. Off the bench, the Jazz are extremely young, but extremely flexible. They can trot out Rudy Gobert, Dante Exum (who can play all the wing positions, to include point guard), and Trevor Booker and Joe Ingles (combo forwards who aren’t afraid to let it fly from deep).

Probable Starting Line-Ups

Utah Jazz

  • PG – Trey Burke
  • SG – Alec Burks
  • SF – Gordon Hayward
  • PF – Derrick Favors
  • C – Enes Kanter

Oklahoma City Thunder

  • PG – Reggie Jackson
  • SG – Andre Roberson
  • SF – Lance Thomas
  • PF – Serge Ibaka
  • C – Steven Adams

3 Keys to the Game

1. Rebounding - The last time the Thunder met Utah, the Jazz outrebounded the Thunder 55-44. The Thunder actually won the first quarter rebounding battle 12-11, which was also the only quarter they won scoring-wise. The Thunder bigs, especially Steven Adams, have to do a better job of not only boxing out Kanter and Favors, but also trying to get offensive rebounds of their own. The Thunder grabbed 3 offensive rebounds in that first quarter which led to 3 extra points.

2. Staying in front of Trey Burke - The Thunder did a poor job of staying in front of Jazz guards in the last game. They drove into the lane at will and often found open targets that made the Thunder pay. The Thunder bigs have to do a better job of hedging into to help out guards on the PnR’s.

jackson thunder burks jazz

3. Reggie Jackson - This may be the final game that Jackson plays that the main ball-handler/offensive threat on the team. It’s been a mixed bag, but I also think that Reggie has proven himself in this time. He may not be an elite player, but he is very good and can put up some Westbrook-like numbers.

As always, thank you for the visit to my site, and I wish you and yours a Happy Thanksgiving.

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Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Brooklyn Nets preview (Game 14 of 82)

adams lopez nets thunder

  • When: Friday, 21 November 2014 at 7:00 PM CST
  • Where: Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, OK

The Oklahoma City Thunder are the worst team in the Western Conference and tied with the New York Knicks for the 2nd worst record in the league. Let that sink in for a second. A season that started with so much promise has devolved to this current state. The thing is, the Thunder don’t feel like one of the worst teams in the league. They have been competitive in most games this season, but, unfortunately, lack the horses to put teams away. The Thunder lead the league in moral victories, but those mean squat when it comes to the final W-L record at the end of the season. This team needs to start winning some of these close games in order to stay within striking distance of the 8th seed in the Western Conference.

This is the 2nd meeting of the season between the Thunder and the Nets. The Nets did a number on the Thunder in the 4th game of the season, beating them in convincing fashion, 116-85. That game was Reggie Jackson’s first of the season, and there was a bit of an adjustment period that clouded the team’s performance in that game. The Nets decimated the Thunder’s zone, which had been pretty successful in the previous 3 games, to the tune of 52.4% shooting from the field to go along with 11 3-pointers.

The Opponent

anderson garnett johnson nets

The Nets currently stand at 4-7. The Nets started 4-2 out the gates, but have since lost 5 in a row. The main issue has been defense. In their first 6 games, the Nets gave up 98.2 points per game. During their 5 game losing streak, they are allowing 106.6 points per game. They are middle of the road in most statistical categories. The Nets are led by the veteran backcourt of Deron Williams and Joe Johnson. While both are a couple years removed from their prime, they are still consistent enough from the outside to be a threat. Rookie Bojan Bogdanovic has been a surprise at the SF position, pumping in 11.3 points and 3 rebounds a game on 37.3% shooting from 3-point territory. Up front, Kevin Garnett is still providing defense and rebounding in what will likely be his final season and Brook Lopez is rounding out nicely after coming back from a foot sprain earlier this season. Off the bench, the Nets have a mixture of shooters (Mirza Teletovic and Alan Anderson), an energetic big men (Mason Plumlee), and a savvy back up point guard (Jarrett Jack).

Probable Starting Line-Ups

Brooklyn Nets

  • PG – Deron Williams
  • SG – Joe Johnson
  • SF – Bojan Bogdanovic
  • PF – Kevin Garnett
  • C – Brook Lopez

Oklahoma City Thunder

  • PG – Reggie Jackson
  • SG – Andre Roberson
  • SF – Lance Thomas
  • PF – Serge Ibaka
  • C – Steven Adams

3 Keys to the Game

1. Brook Lopez - After missing most of last season and missing the first 2 games of this season, Lopez is just now starting to round into shape. He’s always been an All-Star talent, but has always been derailed by injuries. His last game was his best one yet, totaling 26 points, 7 rebounds, and 3 blocks on 11-19 shooting from the field. If the Nets get an inside/out game working with Lopez and their wings, the Thunder could be in a bit of trouble.

Joe Johnson, Serge Ibaka

 

2.  Perimeter Defense - The Thunder do a good job with this zone for the most part. But the Nets, in all their veteran savvy, exploited it the first time they played. If the Thunder are able to corral the shooters for the Nets, they will probably have a chance in this game. The addition of Andre Roberson will hopefully help this.

3. Transition Opportunities - There should be no reason why Reggie Jackson, Roberson/Jeremy Lamb, and Serge Ibaka don’t beat their man down the floor numerous times tonight for easy baskets.

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The Thunder through the first month of the season: 10 Thoughts

ibaka jones jackson thunder

To call this season eventful would be an understatement. The Oklahoma City Thunder currently sit at 3-10, a far cry from the record many predicted the Thunder would have at this point before the season started. But those predictions are usually predicated on the belief that injuries won’t be a factor. Well, injuries have been a huge factor for the Thunder. Here are 10 thoughts from the first two weeks of the season.

1. Injuries stink!

It started with a small blurb, “Mitch McGary’s foot will be re-evaluated following the (Denver) game.” This was right after the Thunder’s first preseason game. A game in which McGary looked like the second coming of Bill Laimbeer. The injury occurred late in the game, but McGary stayed in the game until the final buzzer. But alas, McGary ended up with a broken foot and was reported to be out for 6-8 weeks. Then, after the second preseason game, Kevin Durant went to the training staff to complain about foot pain. It was revealed that he had suffered a Jones fracture and would need surgery. His recovery was slated to take 6-8 weeks also. Next up was Anthony Morrow, who was injured in practice two weeks before the start of the season. He recovery period was said to be between 4-6 weeks. Then 2 days before the start of the season, Reggie Jackson (ankle) and Jeremy Lamb (back) both got injured in the final home practice of the preseason.

The Thunder started the season with 8 healthy bodies. Then in the second game of the season, Russell Westbrook missed a shot, went up for a rebound, and came down looking at his hand. He accidentally slammed is hand against Kendrick Perkins’ granite elbow and ended up with a broken bone in his hand that required surgery. His recovery period is said to be between 4-6 weeks. Down to 7 healthy bodies. Reggie Jackson came back for the 4th game of the season, but in that game, Andre Roberson went down with a sprained foot. Down to 6 healthy bodies. In the 5th game of the season, the Thunder got Lamb back, but lost Perry Jones due to a knee contusion. One step forward, one step back. Luckily, the Thunder haven’t suffered anymore injuries since then. The cavalry is due to come back in the next few weeks, with the hope being that the patchwork Thunder can stay afloat long enough for the team to dig out of the injury-riddled hole it’s gotten itself into.

To get a full grasp of the current injury situation, Thunder players have already missed 80 games due to injury through 13 games. Thunder players missed 83 games due to injury all of last season.

durant westbrook roberson thunder injuries

I’ve never seen an injury spell like this, but it does kind of remind me of the 2nd season the Hornets were in town. In that season, the Hornets were predicted to be on the verge of a playoff spot in the Western Conference. They had a young, up-and-coming duo in Chris Paul and David West, a young defensive big man in Tyson Chandler, and the catch of the offseason in Peja Stojakovic. The season got off to a great start as the Hornets opened up 8-3 out of the gate. But then came the injuries. Top reserve guard Bobby Jackson missed 26 games due to a cracked rib, West got injured in the 8th game of the season with an elbow issue that required surgery and missed 30 games, Stojakovic had back surgery after the 13th game of the season and missed the rest of the year, and Paul severely sprained his ankle in the 27th game of the season and missed the next 17 games. The Hornets still battled throughout the season, but the injuries proved to be too much and they were eliminated from the playoff hunt in the final month of the season. Here’s hoping the Thunder fare a little bit better.

2. The emergence of Reggie Jackson as a featured player

This could simultaneously be the best and worst thing for the Thunder in their future negotiations with Jackson. It’s great because the Thunder have a third player they can lean on if Durant and Westbrook either miss time or are being heavily keyed on by the opposing defense. And with this injury bug, they’ve definitely needed Jackson to step up. But it’s bad because, with every good game Jackson has and with every game he takes over in the 4th quarter, it’s just a little bit more added to his asking price. Through his first 6 games of the season, Jackson is averaging 22.8 points, 7.5 assists, 4.0 rebounds, and 0.7 steals on 43% shooting from the field. Removing sample size from the equation, those numbers look very  Westbrookian. But like everything else in the NBA, once opposing defenses get at least 5 games worth of film on you, they can start to scheme against your strengths.

In the last 4 games, opposing teams have begun to focus their defensive energy on Jackson. They either blitz him with an additional defender when he’s 23 feet from the basket or they shadow him with a big man as he dribbles on the perimeter. In those 4 games, Jackson is averaging 15.3 points, 8 assists, and 6.3 rebounds per game. Those are still good number, but his shooting percentage in those 4 games has dropped to 34.4% overall and 20% from 3-point territory. Without too many consistent options on the offensive side of the ball, Jackson is getting a glimpse of what life could like on his own team.

The dirty little secret with the Thunder is that with Westbrook and Durant on the floor, their exorbitant usage percentages tend to mask the full talents of their 3rd and 4th best players. James Harden was never given the opportunity to fully show his array of skills throughout his time with the Thunder. Yes, he played well enough to win the 6th Man of the Year award, but it wasn’t until he was fully unleashed while on the Rockets that he proved he was, arguably, the best 2-guard in the game. While Jackson will likely never be in the discussion for best point guard in the game, he definitely has the skill set to be considered in that second to third tier of point guards outside of Chris Paul, Tony Parker, Steph Curry, and Westbrook.

3. The Veteran Presence of Kendrick Perkins and Nick Collison

If I’m a young player in the NBA and I know that I’m likely headed down the career path of being a role player/specialist, then I would be attaching myself to the hip pockets of any of these two guys. In the midst of all this chaos, Collison and Perkins have been bastions of stability, with surprising flashes of necessary greatness. Perkins could have come into this season moping and complaining because of his demotion to the bench. Instead, he’s approached this season with an almost youthful zeal, and he’s probably put together the best 9 games of his Thunder career. In the Thunder’s first win of the season against Denver, Perkins (after scoring 17 points, by the way) echoed the sentiments of the coaching staff by saying that the Thunder “were all in this boat, together.” These are the intangibles that can’t be measured by a statistician. For the most part, Perkins’ stat do not merit his $9.4 million dollar salary. But as a locker room leader, its times like this where Perkins earns every penny he receives in that pay period.

perkins collison thunder

Collison’s play for the past season and a half would lead most to believe that he was on the last leg of his career. The nagging injuries were starting to mount and his effectiveness on the court was starting to diminish. But the saying, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” fell on deaf ears when it came to Collison. Over the offseason, Collison worked on refining his outside shot. There were glimpses of it last season, but this year, Collison has taken it to another level. He has made more 3-point FG’s in the first 13 games of the season (11), than he has in the first 10 years of his career (5). While this may be some sort of statistical anomaly, it may also be the renaissance that can extend Collison’s effectiveness a couple more seasons.

4. Serge Ibaka: The Strangest 3 and D guy in the League

In the 7 seasons the Thunder have been in Oklahoma City, they’ve had a number of 3-point specialists on the team. From Daequan Cook to Kevin Martin to Anthony Morrow, the team is always in search of players that will help spread the floor and provide Durant and Westbrook space to operate. The floor spacer the team has been looking for may have been on the team all along. Serge Ibaka had shown signs of being an effective 3-point shooter in the past couple seasons. In the last 2 seasons, Ibaka has shot 43-117 from 3-point territory, good for 36.8%. This season, through the first 13 games, Ibaka is 23-59 (39%) from deep on 4.5 3-point attempts per game. He has already matched his total of made 3-point FG’s from last season. Some of that is out of necessity due to the team needing to find offense in its current situation. But, I also think this may be by design. Can you imagine Durant, Westbrook, and Jackson operating in a small ball line-up where Ibaka takes the center out towards the 3-point line? I would surmise it would be almost unfair.

5. The Development of Perry Jones

More than any other sport, athleticism is of extreme importance to basketball. The fluid nature of the game, the constant movement, the jumping, the slashing, the running. It’s almost like a fast paced ballet. The more athletic the player, the more of a leg up they have in the league. Is every athletic player destined for greatness? Of course not. But athleticism can be a major tool to have in an NBA career. For two years now, we’ve heard from different members of the Thunder organization marveling about Jones’ athletic ability. Heaping the accolades that he is the most athletic player on an extremely athletic team. But on the court, he could never seem to put it all together. You saw the flashes of athletic brilliance, but the motor and the want to be great seemed to be missing. What you got was a player that was seemingly content with being a “utility defender” and a spot-up 3-point shooter.

perry jones thunder

With necessity, though, comes action. When Westbrook went down in the first half of the 2nd game of the season, the Thunder were left without a consistent playmaker. Sebastian Telfair, a player that wasn’t even in the league last season, was tasked with setting up the offense. But who would he pass it to? Enter Perry Jones. With the vacuum created by the absence of Durant, Jackson, and Westbrook, Jones stepped up and averaged 22.7 points, 5 rebounds, and 2 assists on 52% shooting from the field in the 3 games in which he played more than 34 minutes. Even though it was only a 3 game spurt, the experience Jones got in learning how to use his tools, may be key to the Thunder’s future success.

6. The Fragility of Jeremy Lamb’s Mental State

The first two games after Lamb came from injury: 17 points, 6 rebounds, and 2 assists per game on 46.4% FG shooting and 33.3% from 3-point territory.

The next two games from Lamb: 5 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 2 assists per game on 17.4% FG shooting and 0-7 from 3-point territory.

So, what was the difference between these two splits? The easy answer is that the first two games were at home and the next two were on the road. But I think the real cause goes deeper than that. Last season, Lamb’s home/road splits were nearly identical. Consistency, based on venue, was never an issue with Lamb. So, then, what was the major difference between the first two games and the next two games?

My hypothesis is that Lamb performs better when there is no competitive pressure on him from an internal source. In essence, when he is allowed to play carefree without anybody waiting in the wing to take his minutes, he performs wonderfully. But as soon as there is competitive pressure from a teammate for minutes, Lamb starts to press and his performance suffers. In the first two games that Lamb played, Anthony Morrow was out with a knee injury. But as soon as Morrow was activated, Lamb’s numbers suffered. A similar scenario happened last season when the Thunder signed Caron Butler in late February. Lamb’s performance, which had been trending downward in the month of February, completely bottomed out after Butler was signed and he lost his spot in the rotation.

Since his first 4 games of the seasons, it appears that Lamb’s inconsistencies have a lot to do with home/road splits this season. At home, Lamb averages 15.8 points and 6.5 rebounds per game on 50% shooting from the field and 40% from 3. On the road, Lamb’s averages drop to 9.3 points and 3.8 rebounds per game on 25.6% shooting from the first and 27.8% from 3.

7. The Importance of the 15th Man – Lance Thomas 

Every year, the Thunder brings in about 3-4 hopefuls to training camp to fill out their preseason roster. Those players are usually cut by the time the season starts and some even become part of the Thunder’s D-League team. The Thunder like to head into the season with an empty roster spot in case they need to facilitate a trade or if they need to sign someone later in the season. But this season, with all the injuries, the Thunder chose to sign one of their training camp hopefuls. Lance Thomas beat out Talib Zanna, Richard Solomon, and Michael Jenkins to secure the coveted 15th spot on the team.

Thunder v Raptors

A 15th man is usually a player that goes hard in practice, and then cheers from the sidelines in a nicely tailored suit as an inactive player. If the 15th man is getting playing time, then a couple of scenarios are at play: either several players on the roster are injured, a recent trade has trimmed the roster by at least 2 players, or some players are sitting out for rest. To us fans, the last guy off the bench is usually an afterthought. Someone we know is a part of the team, but also, someone whom we don’t necessarily want playing significant minutes.

But to a general manager, the 15th man could be the piece of gum that prevents the dam from breaking. If the 15th man has to play, then he better be someone that can give you something of significance. Well, not only has Lance Thomas had to play, but he’s also started 9 games for the Thunder. He’s averaging career highs in points, rebounds, assists, steals, and turnovers. There are games where he plays like the 15th man on our roster. But then there are games where his energy and hustle help the team significantly. In a perfect world, I would love for Thomas to remain as our 15th man. In the real world, though, he will probably be the sacrificial lamb sometime this season, for a trade or to make room for a late season veteran signing. Whatever happens, he has shown his mettle and will likely get another chance in this league because of it.

8. Sebastian Telfair – The Stabilizer

When Telfair signed with the team this offseason, the thought was that he would play the veteran third string point guard role that Royal Ivey and Kevin Ollie have filled in the past. A veteran that can still play some, but is more of a team-first guy. Instead, with all the injuries on the team, Telfair has had to fill the Derek Fisher role: point guard gunner off the bench.

Telfair career was thought to be on its last leg after he played in China last season. For the promise that he brought coming into the NBA, he has been a bit of a bust. But he has carved out a respectable 10 year career as a journeyman playing for 8 franchises, including a two time tour of duty in Minnesota. As a third string point guard making the league minimum, Telfair would’ve probably fared great on this team. The scary part would’ve been if he was needed to be pressed into action, and that fear came to fruition as the season started.

Surprisingly, though, Telfair has been a bit of a stabilizer on this team. Does he chuck too much at times? Yes. Does he turn it over more times than a veteran point guard should? Yes. Is he lacking defensively? Yes. But he’s a gamer when he’s in there and gives 100% effort. When Westbrook and Jackson were out for that game and a half in the beginning of the season, Telfair went out there and performed admirably against Chris Paul and Ty Lawson. His veteran presence has helped this team stay even-keeled throughout this arduous process.

9. Scott Brooks – Possible Coach of the Year candidate

The Coach of the Year award usually goes to one of two coaches: either the coach on the team that overachieves and makes the playoffs or the coach on the best team in the league when there isn’t a surprise overachieving team. But let’s say the Thunder navigate through this rough start and actually make it to the playoffs in the Western Conference. Wouldn’t Brooks be as deserving in leading this patchwork MASH unit to the playoffs as any other coach in the league? Brooks has had to adapt to the team he has. He’s muddied up the games in hopes that the Thunder can stick around long enough to make a run at the end of the game. He’s employed 2-3 zone defenses and strange line-ups where every player on the floor was over 6’9″ (Jones, Thomas, Perkins, Ibaka, and Collison). He’s become kind of a subdued mad scientist.

coach brooks thunder

Will voters remember this run when Westbrook and Durant have played 55-60 together at the end of the season? Probably not. But the biggest knock on Brooks has always been is inability to quickly adapt to situations, whether in game or in a small sample size of games. Now that he’s adapting on the fly, I wonder if this will continue when the reinforcements come back, or if Brooks will revert back to his old ways. Either way, if the Thunder are anywhere near the 6th seed in the West when the season closes, I think Brooks should be in consideration for COY.

10. Heart of a Champion!

Regardless of where the Thunder finish this season, the moxie they have exhibited in these first 13 games should be applauded. Have they looked horrible at times? Yes. But, at least they haven’t looked Philadelphia 76ers horrible. They’ve been in most games until the end and have shown no quit. It’s been a learning process and hopefully, the lessons learned early this season will help guide this team in May and June.

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Oklahoma City Thunder at Denver Nuggets preview (Game 13 of 82)

ibaka adams faried thunder nuggets

  • When: Wednesday, 19 November 2014 at 8:00 PM CST
  • Where: Pepsi Center, Denver, CO

The last time the panic alarm was this loud in Thunder Nation was after the 2nd game of the season. The Thunder had just lost 2 close games on the road, and to top it off, they lost their All-Star point guard to a broken hand. The roster was down to 8 healthy players, none of which had ever been tasked with leading a team to battle. The Thunder needed a respite and they needed it fast. Enter the Denver Nuggets. The Thunder got off to a big lead and still had the fortitude to win a close game when Denver got hot in the 4th quarter. From there, the panic dampened as the Thunder started getting some players back from injury and actually won a couple more games. But with the Thunder staring at a 3-9 record, the offense struggling, and their superstar duo probably not coming back for at least another 2 weeks, the panic alarm is once again wailing.

The Opponent

Indiana Pacers v Denver Nuggets

The Nuggets come into the game with a 3-7 record. They won their first game, and then proceeded to lose their next 6, before finally winning the last 2 of 3, including a road victory in Cleveland in their last game. The Nuggets are middle of the pack when it comes to scoring (101.5 ppg), but give up the 4th most points in the league (107.1 ppg). Their rebounding is one of their strengths and it fuels their transition game. Ty Lawson is one of the better pace pushers in the league, using his speed to beat defenders up the court and causing havoc in the paint. On the perimeter, Arron Afflalo and Wilson Chandler have had their troubles being consistent. Up front, the big man rotation of Kenneth Faried, Timofey Mozgov, and JJ Hickson provides plenty of energy in going after rebounds and hustling defensively. The Nuggets are one of the deepest teams in the league, usually going at least 12 deeep into the rotation. The bench players that receive most time are Randy Foye, Danilo Gallinari, JaVale McGee, Alonzo Gee, and Nate Robinson.

Probable Starting Line-Up

Denver Nuggets

  • PG – Ty Lawson
  • SG – Arron Afflalo
  • SF – Wilson Chandler
  • PF – Kenneth Faried
  • C – Timofey Mozgov

Oklahoma City Thunder

  • PG – Reggie Jackson
  • SG – Jeremy Lamb
  • SF – Andre Roberson
  • PF – Serge Ibaka
  • C – Steven Adams

3 Keys to the Game

1. Consistency - The Thunder have held leads in the last few games they have lost. Sometimes those leads even balloned up into the double digits. But the Thunder have failed to capitalize on those leads due to a stagnant offense. When the Thunder play their best is when they are passing and moving. As soon as the offense becomes iso-oriented, the Thunder struggle due to having their iso MVPs on the bench in street clothes. The Thunder can’t stop playing their current brand of basketball as soon as they see a little light at the end of the tunnel. They aren’t good enough to go off the cuff. They need to stick to their script.

2. Rebounding - I feel like I’ve written this in the last few pre-game reports as a key to the game, but the proof is in the pudding. In their last 3 games (all losses), the Thunder have been outrebounded by an average of 11 rebounds and have allowed the opponent to grab an average of 16 offensive rebounds. While I like the new found perimeter aggressiveness of Nick Collison and Serge Ibaka, I feel like them being so far from the basket takes away from their opportunities to grab offensive rebounds. On the defensive end, Steven Adams needs to play bigger and occupy more space to grab more defensive boards.

Denver Nuggets vs Oklahoma City Thunder

3. Reggie Jackson - The offense goes as he does. If he is masterfully setting up his teammates and controlling the flow of the game, the Thunder usually are usually in control and rolling. As soon as he goes off script, the Thunder tend to struggle. I don’t necessarily fault Jackson. This is his first foray as the focal point of the offense, and he is still adjusting to being shadowed by at least one other defender.

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Posted in Thunder Pre-game Report

Oklahoma City Thunder at Utah Jazz preview (Game 12 of 82)

hayward burke lamb jackson thunder jazz

  • When: Tuesday, 18 November 2014 at 8:00 PM CST
  • Where: EnergySolutions Arena, Salt Lake City, UT

At the beginning of the season, you would’ve needed an alternate universe to imagine a scenario where the Utah Jazz would have a better record than the Oklahoma City Thunder through 11 games. But, alas, through a series of unfortunate events, here we stand today. The Thunder are battling and doing whatever necessary to stay in games. Whether it’s muddying up the game or getting hot at the right time, the Thunder have been competitive in every game this season, sans one. Unfortunately, staying in the game is completely different than actually winning the game. And that is where the Thunder are struggling right now. If coffee is for closers, then the only one on the team even sniffing a Starbucks gift card is Reggie Jackson. The Thunder have to start finding a way to finish out these close games.

This is the first of 4 meetings between these Northwest Division opponents. The Thunder won 3 of 4 meetings with the Jazz last season, winning by an average of 18.3 points. Also, not that it means much, but the Thunder defeated the Jazz 88-82 in the preseason.

The Opponent

Alec Burks , Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors

The Jazz come into the game with a 4-7 record. They rank in the bottom third of the league in points scored, points allowed, rebounds, and defensive rating. Surprisingly, though, they rank in the top ten in offensive rating. The Jazz are in the second phase of their rebuild. A lot of their young players from the past few seasons are either coming up on extension or have already signed their first extension. At this point, improvements and jumps will probably be expected. Point guard Trey Burke leads the Jazz’s attack. While still young, Burke has shown a knack for breaking down defenses and causing havoc in the lane. His backcourt mate, Alec Burks has started to show the consistency that has been missing in his first 3 seasons. Gordon Hayward, who signed a max deal this offseason, is settling into his role as the leader of the team. Averaging 19.5 points, 5.5 rebounds, 4.8 assists, and 1.3 steals per game, Hayward is quickly becoming one of the better all around players in the game. Up front, Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter provide the Jazz with a big, mobile front line they hope will one day mimic the front line of Memphis. Off the bench, the Jazz play the rookie trio (Dante Exum, Rodney Hood, and Joe Ingles), along with Rudy Gobert and Trevor Booker.

Probable Starting Line-ups

Utah Jazz

  • PG – Trey Burke
  • SG – Alec Burks
  • SF – Gordon Hayward
  • PF – Derrick Favors
  • C – Enes Kanter

Oklahoma City Thunder

  • PG – Reggie Jackson
  • SG – Jeremy Lamb
  • SF – Andre Roberson
  • PF – Serge Ibaka
  • C – Steven Adams

3 Keys to the Game

1. Control the boards - The Jazz are a lot like the Detroit Pistons in that they aren’t very efficient at shooting, but have the necessary bigs to grab offensive boards.  Kanter, Favors, and Gobert are extremely active up front, and can gobble up rebounds if given the opportunity.

2. Turnovers and Transition - The Jazz play at the second slowest pace in the league and try to limit their turnovers. But with such a young roster, they still average about 14 per game. If the Thunder can force a few more turnovers and get the Jazz running, they may exploit a style of play the Jazz aren’t comfortable with.

exum hood jazz

3. Take advantage of the rookies - The Jazz play their three rookies at least 15 minutes a game. If the Thunder want to take advantage of the experience factor, this would be the time to impose their will.

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Posted in Thunder Pre-game Report

Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Detroit Pistons preview (Game 10 of 82)

lamb adams jackson jennings thunder pistons

  • When: Friday, 14 November 2014 at 7:00 PM CST
  • Where: Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, OK

For the first time this season, the Oklahoma City Thunder have been on the high side in two of the last three games. This was the stretch that was supposed to balance out the gauntlet that was the first 6 games of the season. The Thunder have seemingly adjusted to this new normal and are starting to hit their stride. They’ve played with the same 10 players for the past 2 games, which is saying something for this season, and have some rhythm moving forward.

This is the first meeting of the year between these two teams. The Thunder swept the season series last season. They kept the Pistons at bay in their first meeting of the season (aka the Steven Adams coming out party), and then needed a furious comeback in the 4th quarter of the second meeting (which was also the last game of the regular season) to secure the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference. The Thunder have won the last 10 meetings against the Pistons, dating all the way back to 2009.

The Opponent

NBA: Brooklyn Nets at Detroit Pistons

The Detroit Pistons come into the game with a 2-6 record. The Stan Van Gundy era has gotten off to a rough start as the Pistons have struggled to find their identity on offense. They are averaging 93.3 points per game, good for 25th in the league. A good SVG offense is inside/out heavy with a dominant big man surrounded by shooters. The problem with Detroit is that their big men aren’t quite dominant yet and their shooters aren’t hitting their shots consistently. Brandon Jennings and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope man the backcourt. Jennings has been surprisingly consistent this season, while Caldwell-Pope is still learning the nuances of the game. Up front, the Pistons are still trotting out the inconsistent, yet possibly terrifying trio of Greg Monroe, Josh Smith, and Andre Drummond. Smith is still inconsistent, but has shied away from taking so many 3-point attempts (going from 3.4 attempts last season to 1.5 attempts this year). Monroe has been their best player so far, averaging 17.3 point and 11 rebounds per game. The Pistons’ bench is of the more weaker ones in the league and features Caron Butler, Kyle Singler, DJ Augustin, and Jonas Jerebko.

Probable Starting Line-Ups

Detroit Pistons

  • PG – Brandon Jennings
  • SG – Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
  • SF – Josh Smith
  • PF – Greg Monroe
  • C – Andre Drummond

Oklahoma City Thunder

  • PG – Reggie Jackson
  • SG – Jeremy Lamb
  • SF – Lance Thomas
  • PF – Serge Ibaka
  • C – Steven Adams

3 Keys to the Game

1. Zone Defense - The defense has been trotting out a zone, especially in the 2nd and 4th quarters, that has been flummoxing opponents. The zone is especially dangerous when the Thunder are trotting out 3 bigs (usually Ibaka, Nick Collison, and one of either Kendrick Perkins or Adams). With Detroit’s tendency to be streaky from the perimeter, I would look for the Thunder to deploy this defense, especially when Detroit has their 3 bigs in the game.

Oklahoma City Thunder v Detroit Pistons

2. Rebounds - While Detroit appears to still be trying to figure out how best to use their three bigs, the one thing they can always do well is rebound. Between the three of them, they are averaging over 30 rebounds per game (with nearly 10 of those being on the offensive end). Detroit may miss a lot of shots from the perimeter, but they are able to buffer that by grabbing offensive boards. The Thunder may need “all hands on deck” in the rebounding department for this game.

3.  Perimeter Bigs - Ibaka and Collison may benefit the offense in this game by floating around the perimeter. Taking their man away from the paint, will allow Jackson and Sebastian Telfair room to operate and attack the paint.

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Posted in Thunder Pre-game Report
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