2017 Summer League Recap: Thunder vs. New York Knicks – July 3, 2017

ORLANDO – Despite winning in its first Summer League game on Saturday, the Thunder wanted to learn from the experience, and apply it on the court. On Saturday, the Thunder’s defense got off to a slow start. Not again on Monday. Clearly, the Thunder heard the message, and delivered in a 99-87 win against the New York Knicks.

“Even though we were able to get the win, we knew there were a lot of areas we could improve in,” veteran forward Josh Huestis said. “So, we went to practice yesterday, and we worked on it, we talked about it. We watched film, and guys took it to heart. From the start of the game to the final buzzer, we were there, we imposed our will, and we controlled the pace of the game.”

Watch: Postgame Interviews

The defense was absolutely swarming, and the Thunder’s length, athleticism and extra efforts forced the Knicks into incredibly tough possession from the very start. During one early stretch, Summer League Coach Mark Daigneault’s squad forced three straight turnovers, and ripped off a 10-2 burst before New York had to call timeout.

New York began just 4-for-12 shooting from the field, and the Thunder capitalized on the other end, by getting out into transition and finding open shooters. The Thunder led 26-15 after one quarter, when it shot 56.3 percent from the field and 5-for-7 from three, while holding New York to 35.7 percent shooting and five turnovers.

Highlights: Thunder Top Knicks

“It was kind of making them do what we wanted them to do,” point guard Semaj Christon explained. “Our first game we were kind of loose, not knowing where to be on the court on the defensive end. Today we watched film and tried to execute what the coaches wanted us to do.”

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Huestis Lifts Off

The Thunder has asked Josh Huestis to change quite a bit about his game since the day he first walked in the door. First, he had to transition from a frontcourt player to a wing. Then he needed to work on his rebounding, then his three-point shooting and his multi-positional defending. Even without playing time at the NBA level, Huestis has managed to utilize the investment of the Thunder’s development system to his advantage and improve as a player.

Highlights: Josh Huestis

“It all starts defensively, trying to show I have the lateral quickness and reaction time to be able to guard smaller guys and then the strength to be able to guard bigger guys as well,” Huestis explained. “And then rebounding, I try to make sure defensively and offensively to crash the boards, show off, be able to rise above the rim, just tip it back out, rebound the ball in some way, shape or form.”

Today he showed it with a dominating performance that featured a game-high 26-points on 11-for-17 shooting, including a 4-for-8 mark from three-point range and seven rebounds as well. He ripped the nets on his first four threes, and much of the rest of his scoring came through the utilization of his athleticism. Rim-rocking dunks in transition, on backdoor lobs and off missed shots were highlight plays not just of Huestis’ afternoon, but the entire game.

“I just find those opportunities to showcase my ability to jump and to run and try to get them whenever I can take them,” Huestis said.

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Former OK State Standout Shines

Many Thunder fans are familiar with the name Markel Brown from his days at Oklahoma State, but since then they may not know he’s had a wild road back to Summer League with the Thunder. He played 45 minutes in his first career NBA start with the Brooklyn Nets, but then last year found himself playing professionally in Russia getting limited minutes off the bench.

Now, back in the United States, Brown doesn’t want to miss his opportunity. This afternoon he was an absolute sparkplug off the bench for the Thunder, showing that his length and strength on defense can be a factor while also providing a scoring punch. He added 20 points as a reserve on 8-for-10 shooting, including 3-for-4 from three-point range for the game.

“That’s what I’m here to do, come off the bench, provide good energy for my team and be ready when the ball is swung my way to knock down open shots,” Brown said. “I just want to go out there and feed off my teammates and bring that energy to the second unit and go out there and make runs.”

Highlights: Markel Brown

“What has impressed me this week is his ability to understand defensive concepts and his engagement on that end of the floor,” Daigneault said of Brown. “When you’re undersized for the position, you have to have the ingredients to compensate for your flaws. His athleticism compensates for the size and his understanding of the defensive end of the floor and what the job is compensates for that.”

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Up Next:

The Thunder moved to 2-0 on the week and has racked up 13.5 points for the week thus far between the two wins (4 points each) and the five quarters won and one quarter tied (1 point each). On Tuesday July 4 the Thunder will play against the Charlotte Hornets at 12 p.m. CT. Be sure to tune into NBATV and check back to okcthunder.com for full coverage.

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