The Thunder kicked off preseason play tonight in Oklahoma City, taking on the Detroit Pistons in the first action of the 2018-19 campaign. In a game that saw the Thunder take the floor without Russell Westbrook, Paul George, and others, the Pistons (who were without Blake Griffin and Reggie Jackson) took care of business and escaped town with a 97-91 victory.
The back-and-forth affair was tight from the jump, as the Thunder led throughout the first half and by three at the halftime break. The Pistons were able to turn the tide in the third quarter, holding the Thunder to 6-of-15 shooting and taking a two-point advantage into the final frame. The Oklahoma City reserves were able to briefly re-take the lead in the fourth but went cold late with the game tied at 91 with 1:50 remaining. Detroit closed on a 6-0 run to seal the final score.
Despite the loss, Dennis Schroder and Steven Adams were fantastic — showcasing a budding chemistry in the pick-and-roll. Schroder led the way with 21 points, 5 rebounds, and 9 assists. Adams chipped in 17 points and 12 rebounds of his own. The Pistons were led by a dominant Andre Drummond, who finished with a game-high 31 points and 16 rebounds. All told, Detroit had five men finish in double-figures.
The Thunder will be back in action on Friday night in Minnesota. That game will again be streamed live on OKCThunder.com and on the Thunder’s mobile app.
36.6: The Thunder shot just 36.6 percent from the floor. Detroit hit on 46.4 percent of their attempts.
45: OKC hit 9-of-20 from downtown, good for 45 percent. On the flip side, the Pistons shot 9-of-37 for 24.3 percent.
78.6: The Thunder made 22-of-28 from the free throw line, good for 78.6 percent. After last season’s abysmal showing from the stripe, this was certainly acceptable.
+2: OKC won 47-45 on the boards. The advantage was 14-10 on the offensive glass.
-20: The Thunder was bullied in the paint, as the Pistons had a 56-36 scoring advantage down low. Drummond was a monster all night.
4: The Thunder were whistled for four technical fouls — an unusually high amount for game that holds zero significance. Billy Donovan received one for cursing at the referees after a series of perceived blown calls. Billy is apparently dead serious this season.
Schroder: 21 pts, 9 ast, 6 reb, 5/16 FG, 2/3 3P, 27 MP, +4
Adams: 17 pts, 12 reb, 8/15 FG, 26 MP, +4
Felton: 12 pts, 5 ast, 5/14 FG, 19 MP, -10
Patterson: 7 pts, 5 reb, 2/4 FG, 21 MP, -1
Luwawu-Cabarrot: 7 pts, 1/5 3P, 22 MP, +0
Grant: 7 pts, 5 reb, 1/9 FG, 27 MP, -5
Abrines (6 pts), Ferguson (6 pts), Diallo (4 pts), Noel (4 pts)
Dennis Schroder’s full highlights:
Schroder finds Adams for the lob off the PnR:
Steven Adams doing Steven Adams things:
No love lost for Zaza Pachulia:
The Starting Five: With no Westbrook (knee), George (personal), or Andre Roberson (knee), Billy Donovan turned to a starting five of Schroder, Ferguson, Luwawu-Cabarrot, and Steven Adams. The group built an early lead and it went surprisingly well, all things considered. If George is back on Friday, we’ve likely seen the last of this batch of starters.
Schroder Show: If there was any doubt about Schroder being Westbrook Lite, he put that to rest with his performance tonight. The 25-year-old German was all over the court — grabbing rebounds, sparking the break, and working to find Adams in the PnR. He was extremely inefficient in the midrange — a big reason for his 5-of-16 shooting effort. Even still, it was an encouraging first showing for Schroder, although it didn’t do much to make you feel like he and Westbrook will seamlessly mesh when the time comes for them to share the floor together. Their games are eerily similar, which is probably going to be a blessing and a curse depending on the night.
Shoot It, Pat: Patrick Patterson said earlier in the week that his coaches and teammates have been pressing him to shoot more often. That didn’t happen tonight, as he attempted just four shots in 21 minutes of action. He was 1-of-2 from long distance but will need to be more aggressive in getting his shots off.
Grant Gets Grounded: Really rough night for Jerami Grant. The Thunder’s new 27 million dollar man shot just 1-of-9 from the floor and routinely lost control when trying to drive to the rim. This has been an issue for Grant in the past, and it’s clearly something he must continue to work on. Consider tonight a win for the “Patrick Patterson needs to start” crowd. Grant was a -10 in his 27 minutes of action.
The New Guys: Not a great debut for Nerlens Noel and Luwawu-Cabarrot. Noel shot 2-of-7 and finished as a -10 in a completely forgettable showing. Luwawu-Cabarrot looked exactly like the prototypical Sam Presti project — active, athletic, and a non-threat when shooting the basketball. Here’s to that turning around on Friday.
New Play-by-Play Guy: I mean, Chris Fisher was fine as the new play-by-play guy. He really was. It’s just going to take a while to get used to loud noises no longer erupting from the television every time something semi-entertaining happens. The good news is that Michael Cage is already in midseason form and it might take 75 games for him to pronounce “Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot” with even an inkling of success.
Final Thoughts: You’d like to start things off with a win, but there’s no harm in dropping this one. Without Westbrook, George, Roberson, etc, this was basically a live-action practice for Schroder and Adams — along with fleeting moments of Ray Felton making tough shots and behaving as if he’ll never miss again. It would have been nice to see more from some of the reserves — namely Noel and Grant — but preseason is sort of like Whose Line Is It Anyway in that everything is made up and the points don’t matter. This team will be tough to gauge until all, or at least a few more, of the pieces are in play.