I knew Steven Adams was going to be good this season, but not THIS good. In a matchup against the fairly formidable Kosta Koufos, Adams was routinely able to establish position in the post and score. He was also heavily involved on strong side pick and rolls, and could finish really well off assists from Westbrook.
That, my friends, is pretty much all you need to know about this game. The Thunder only had 6 active players that weren't training camp signees, and the Grizzlies were missing their entire starting lineup. By the end of the game, only the most obsessed of basketball fans would have recognized more than half of the players on the floor.
That being said, it was still a really impressive win for the Thunder. Russell Westbrook did an excellent job of leading the team against the slow defense of Nick Calathes. It was fairly easy for him to find room, especially if he worked with Steven Adams on the pick and roll. It really makes me hope against all hope that Adams gets the starting spot over Perkins this season, and gets more of a chance to work with Russell.
Meanwhile, Anthony Morrow is every Thunder fan's dream. He's extremely clutch from three, can complete four point plays, and works best as a catch and shooter. Of course, Morrow does have drawbacks. He's not much of a ballhandler, and his defense was downright atrocious. He got caught going over screens a couple of times on the perimeter and let his man right by him. Still, if we can cover for Derek fraggin Fisher, we can cover for this guy too.
Jeremy Lamb was probably the last interesting case of the night. He got a lot of extended time with the training camp invitees, and was basically asked to carry the scoring load. His competition wasn't exactly fierce, but he did see a bit more success when going to the hole in the third after struggling a bit in the second.
As a team, the most worrying thing about the loss has to be the high turnover rate. The Thunder couldn't get their offense moving for much of the first and part of the second, including time that Westbrook was in. It was just apparent that players like Roberson and Jones aren't going to be able to move very far with the ball, forcing Westbrook to do a ton of creating on his own. Here's hoping that PJIII and Roberson are played opposite each other as much as possible.
Still, the Thunder definitely take comfort in being big. Steven Adams' presence was incredible in terms of scoring, but he was a huge defensive and rebounding presence as well. When Adams was in the game, the Grizzlies would get half of their drives blocked. When Adams was out of the game, the Grizz would be cleaning up offensive rebounds or establishing easy position under the basket.
Speaking of Memphis, they were a mixed bag tonight. Vince Carter was able to get whatever shot he wanted, but blew easy attempts. The starting lineup of bench players all basically played their role, but proved to be weak collective rebounders and defenders. That and I'd say that Westbrook and Adams are better players than anyone who happens to be on the Grizzlies' bench.
Anyway, before I end this, let's focus on the training camp invitees. On the Thunder's end, none of them were any good. Talib Zanna was getting posted up all game. Lance Thomas was a burden on the boards and gave too much space to Jon Leuer. Michael Jenkins had a couple of decent scores, but would get stranded out on the perimeter way too often. And I don't remember anything about Richard Solomon.
On the Grizzlies' end, Patrick Christopher was the player who stood out the most. He was showing a lot of hustle and getting to his spots before his defender got down the floor, which allowed him to score in garbage time. Garbage time is meaningless, but 5-7 from the floor plus a three is still an effective night.
The Thunder next go down to New Orleans to play the Pelicans on Wednesday. Hopefully more players won't be injured. Hopefully it'll be on TV.
Thunder Wonder: Steven Adams
Thunder Down Under: Anthony Morrow
Thunder Blunder: Andre Roberson
Thunder Plunderer: Beno Udrih
Next Game: At the New Orleans Pelicans, Thursday, September 16th, 7 PM Central Daylight Time