This afternoon, the Thunder played in their first Summer League game against a Boston Celtic team that was less than imposing. Here's a quick run down of how it went.
The first quarter was a disaster, and there's no other way to put it. While the Thunder were giving somewhat contested jump shots to guys like Serge Ibaka, B.J. Mullens, and D.J. White, the Celtics were passing the ball to their scorers. In essence, they were the much hungrier team. While all of their players were looking to make the team by setting up good plays, our team was just going through the motions and punching in their card for the day. 27-10 Boston.
The second quarter was just a continuation of the first, at least effort-wise. The only difference was that they were slightly more active defensively. But it was still pretty apparent that the Thunder didn't want to be there. This was exemplified by a rather embarrassing moment in which James Harden lazily dribbled the ball up the floor and got it stripped for an uncontested layup by Lafayette. The Thunder were also getting absolutely killed on the glass, because the big men were still stepping out to take jumpers. Lastly, they only had one assist in the entire half. And that assist came in the last two minutes, where the Thunder suddenly wanted to try playing some basketball and effectively controlled the game.
Below: Did the Thunder pick up their game during the second half? How well did everyone do?
During the third quarter, Kevin Durant stepped in to do some commentating with the NBATV guys. He said the first half was rough because the guys, "were a little too excited to start games" after a week of training camp. Ahem. Nice cover, KD. Overall, the third quarter was a bit better, but the Thunder were still playing equal ball with a Boston team that was a couple levels below them in talent. Sure, the score got a bit closer, but that was only because the Thunder (again) decided to try to play basketball towards the end of the quarter.
In the fourth quarter, come horrible news came in the form of Serge Ibaka getting injured about two minutes in. His knee got tangled up with Erden of the Celtics, and he limped back to the bench. Updates on his condition will come as soon as possible, but it didn't look too serious. Not anything that would take him out for any of next season, anyway. But fortunately, the Thunder's play in the fourth quarter was much better than that of the previous three. They put on a clinic as the players of a superior team showed what they could do.
Some might think that I'm not giving the Celtics enough credit. But until they show me otherwise, they were just your typical, run-of-the-mill Summer League team. They played better than the Thunder because individuals (like Harangody) were putting in great performances, while the Thunder didn't really care. When the Thunder started playing like a team in the fourth, the Celtics easily crumbled under pressure.
Individually, Eric Maynor and James Harden did a horrible job running the point in the first half. Most of the time, they just tried to create an opportunity for themselves or just set a pick n' roll for a big man. There was no driving and dishing, no cuts from the wing, no nothing. But, as the game picked up, so did they. Their game suddenly improved as they started actually trying to win the game, and James Harden began to show why he's a legit scorer in other ways than getting fouled.
On the Celtics side of things, the only players that looked like they had a chance of seeing NBA action were Luke Harangody and Oliver Lafayette. Harangody was an excellent scorer, and Lafayette was a decent all-around guard.
Award-wise, the Thunder Wonder goes to B.J. Mullens. He really seemed to be trying the entire game, after one takes into account that 7-Footers usually look lazy on the floor. He usually worked to get under the basket offensively and at least get fouled. This made him very efficient, as he rarely turned the ball over without points given. Still, his defense and rebounding could use some work, as Serge Ibaka was far superior in both.
The Thunder Down Under goes to James Harden, for remembering how to play in the fourth quarter. Robert Vaden grabs the Thunder Blunder award, as he shots very poorly for someone who's supposed to be a good shooter. Lastly, the Thunder Plunderer goes to Luke Harangody for his excellent scoring.
When one looks at this game as a whole, the bottom line is that most guys here looked very one dimensional. Harangody and Mullens were all about offense. Ibaka and Weaver were all about defense. Eric Maynor and Oliver Lafayette were all about driving to the basket for a few points here and there. Only James Harden really looked like a complete player, and the reasons for that are obvious. All we're looking to see here is how well each player does his job within the team. And pretty much every Thunder player succeeded with that tonight (when they tried) except Robert Vaden. So I'd take that as a pretty good sign.
Next Game: Versus the Bobcats, Tuesday, July 6th, 2:00 PM Central Daylight Time.