I’m at a loss for words. Just a few months after playing in the Western Conference Finals, the Oklahoma City Thunder have fallen to an opponent from a lower tier of competition. Real Madrid, three time Spanish league champion and member of last year’s Euroleague top 8, managed to upset the Thunder in an overtime thriller. This after the Thunder had amassed a 24 point lead at one point during the course of play.
Of course, this should be qualified with three things. First, this is a pre-season game. Second, Steven Adams went down in the second quarter with a sprained ankle. Third, Russell Westbrook played in only the first and third quarters.
But even so. Oladipo and Kanter played throughout crunch time, as did other fully contracted bench players. It was a bit embarrassing to see them be out-strategized by an over-passionate coach. Real Madrid certainly wasn’t blowing anybody away with individual talent. Trey Thompkins got hot from three during the third quarter, Sergio Llull was awfully quick, Anthony Randolph had a few open shots, and Jaycee Carroll got a lot of open space. No doubt, those four turned in great performances. I’ll also commend Othello Hunter for making a couple of game-sealing plays in overtime.
All in all though, I’d say that Madrid won the game because they were the better coached team. Pabla Lasa was a lot more passionate than Billy Donovan, which is understandable considering the circumstances. But Real Madrid also appeared to have much better chemistry in general, as they were using players that were used to their roles. Meanwhile, the Thunder are still figuring out how to fit all of their pieces together. And the Thunder’s second and third pieces simply aren’t very reliable. Victor Oladipo and Enes Kanter need to be put into good positions to score. I’m not saying that Oladipo and Kanter can’t create their own shot, because they certainly can. But they aren’t as dynamic as a Westbrook, Durant, or Harden. They need to get the ball in certain situations in order to maximize their potential. And with Oladipo running the point for much of crunch time, the ball movement on offense simply wasn’t there.
But this doesn’t worry me. The Thunder are playing on another continent, and half of the roster just met each other a week ago. When all of the familiar faces aren’t on the floor, the Thunder don’t resemble a well-oiled machine yet. That’s just the nature of the beast.
So instead of analyzing situations, I’m going to do a rating of each Thunder player’s performance based on what I saw. Obviously, each player is graded relative to expectations.
Abrines, Alex: A. A few amazing threes down the stretch should reall sell this guy in the eyes of Thunder fans. I didn’t track Abrines’ defense too closely, but I did notice that he was put into Jaycee Carroll when Roberson has trouble on him. If Abrines can use his length. perhaps he’ll be a mid-range Singler-like presence on D. I can’t imagine him ever being a force though. No off-dribble game as far as I saw.
Adams, Steven: A. If Adams hadn’t gotten injured and had played more minutes, I’m certain the Thunder would have pulled out this win in regulation. Adams was a big part of the first half run, doing his usual pick and roll game for the Thunder guards. It was encouraging to see Oladipo take so many screens in particular. Adams also had a couple of post-ups on Ayon, one of which was good and one of which was a miss. I look forward to more Adams post-up evolution moving forward.
Huestis, Josh: D. All I saw from Huestis was negative. A thrown away pass as soon as he checked in, along with two allowed floaters to Andres Nocioni on defense.
Ilyasova, Ersan: C+. One of his threes was essentially meaningless at the end of the game, but overall his performance was acceptable. Ilyasova did show his age on defense, and generally couldn’t keep up with whomever he was guarding on the perimeter. Ilyasova’s rebounding also left something to be desired. But Ilyasova can show flashes of offensive ability, including long-range shooting. There were also savvy veteran moments when he managed to poke the ball away from a defender or flop for a foul.
Kanter, Enes: B+. It was a pretty good offensive performance from Kanter. But there were a few times that Kanter got bullied on the inside by Othello Hunter and it was like “eh”. It should be noted that Kanter’s back to the basket game is bad as ever, though it was nice to see Kanter get his jumper going.
Morrow, Anthony: B+. Morrow allowed a couple of threes from Llull on defense, while slacking on the weak side. But on offense, Morrow was 3 for 3 and provided his usual shooting prowess.
Oladipo, Victor: A-. I know that he shot over 50%, and looked really really good at times. But for all of Oladipo’s supposed defensive awareness, he did an awful job of keeping on his man on the weak side. Furthermore, it’s apparent that Oladipo is turnover-prone (5 asts to 4 TOs). In particular, it seems difficult for Oladipo to split defenders around a screen, or make a good decision in that situation. Furthermore, it’s going to be hard getting defenders to respect Oladipo’s three, as he went 1 of 7 from beyond the arc tonight. But if Oladipo can round off those two aspects of his game, he will be an excellent weak-side compliment to Westbrook. And the backcourt defensive combo of Oladipo with Westbrook and Roberson is just insane in terms of athleticism. Every single game is going to have amazing breakaway dunks. Overall I really like him as a piece for OKC moving forward.
Price, Ronnie: C-. I liked Ronnie Price in the first half, as he seemed to work well as a passing conduit. But it became apparent in the second half that no team in the NBA will ever respect Price’s range. Price straight up bricked a couple of awful-looking threes. But Price really sticks to his assignment on defense, and threatens for steals a lot. Price’s athleticism is also something to behold. I’d probably categorize it as quick, like Ish Smith, with a tad bit of strength and skill added.
Roberson, Andre: C-. I’d honestly say that Roberson had an equal effect on the offensive and defensive end of the ball today. that is exceedingly rare. But Roberson honestly was doing an awful job of keeping a body on Jaycee Carroll. This is typical of Roberson, who tends to thrive against off-the-dribble players. And Roberson had picked up four fouls very early in the third quarter. But props to him for playing through it, making a lot of flashy steals early, and making himself effective by cutting to the rim.
Sabonis, Domatas: B. It was interesting to see Donovan start Sabonis at the four. That was a little bit unexpected considering that Sabonis is a rookie. But Domatas addressed the crowd in Spanish prior to the game. Furthermore, Domatas’ father, Arvydas, was in the arena to watch his son play tonight. And Arvydas also spent two years playing for Real Madrid during his professional career. Regardless, it was a promising start for Sabonis. He hawked up two threes, one of which went in. I have no idea how consistent that will be moving forward. I also liked that Sabonis would set screens to create space. But I don’t think defenders respect him enough for Sabonis to have much of an impact on offense yet. So Sabonis works best as a secondary screener, who passes really well and also rebounds well. Hopefully Sabonis’ shot can give him an Ibaka-esque role with Westbrook.
Singler, Kyle: D. Some might say I’m too forgiving. Singler hawked up a couple of awful-looking threes. There was even a play where Singler ran out of bounds and passed to the opponent. But at least Singler was good at running around, sticking to his man, and getting fouled. Quite hilariously, Singler finally took R.K. Anthony’s advice and cut his bangs. Singler can now see. The downside is that we all now know why Singler went with the bangs: he has a fading hairline. If Singler cut his hair a bit closer, it would look just like Billy Donovan’s.
Tarczewski, Kaleb: Incomplete. Tarczewski only played because Adams and Lauvergne were injured, and it was only for a moment. Dude is like a wall setting screens.
Westbrook, Russell: B+. It was honestly a pretty good game from Russ offensively. He hit two threes, looked really slick shooting turnaround jumpers, and worked well around screens. But 4 assists to three turnovers is unacceptable. Once Russ gets that killer instinct and defenses fear him, things will change. Whatever to Westbrook pre-season. OKC was dominant while he was in, for the most part.
- There were a few NBA ambassadors on hand. Jason Richardson, Shawn Marion, Ron Harper, and Arvydas Sabonis.
- Gustavo Ayon had to leave the game with two technical fouls in the third quarter.
- Alex Abrines had to fight through boos, as he played for the rival Barcelonan team for 4 years.
- Late in the game, Rumble tried to start a wave, but the Spanish fans refused. What disrespect!
Thunder Wonder: Westbrook, who will probably take every one of these this year
Thunder Down Under: Alex Abrines, nerves of steel!
Thunder Blunder: Kyle “needs a shaved head” Singler
Thunder Plunderer: Jaycee Carroll, who cannot be given daylight at any point
Next Game: At Barcelona Basquet, Wednesday, October 5th, 1:30 PM Central Daylight Time
What did you think of tonight’s game? Drop a comment and let us know!