- Tip-off: 7:00 p.m. CT
- Television: Fox Sports Oklahoma
- Radio: WWLS the Sports Animal and the Thunder Radio Network
The Thunder doesn’t mind running. With athletes like Russell Westbrook, Andre Roberson and Steven Adams to go with sharpshooters like Paul George and Carmelo Anthony, that should be no surprise.
But that’s the trend around the NBA, and even teams like the Indiana Pacers who have historically slowed it down will be pushing a modern brand of basketball as they come to Oklahoma City to take on the Thunder at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
Head Coach Billy Donovan has scouted out the Pacers, George’s former team, who have some familiar faces in the mix with Victor Oladipo and Domas Sabonis holding down vital positions. Myles Turner’s status is uncertain, but regardless Indiana will spread all five men out to the three-point line and try to attack off the bounce.
“They’re playing fast, aggressive, attacking. They get out and really push it,” Donovan said. “They try to get into the deep paint. There’s a lot of pick and rolls, and a lot of guys spaced putting it down on the floor. It’ll be a great challenge defensively with their speed and their quickness.”
“They’re very good on the defensive end of creating steals, getting hands on the basketball, deflections,” Anthony added. “So we have to take care of the basketball. If we do that we’ll put ourselves in a good position to win the game.”
“We’ve done a great job, I feel, so far, limiting transition,” George noted, and he’s right. The Thunder has only allowed opponents 7 fast break points per game so far.
The main internal focus for the Thunder heading into this contest, however, is on the defensive glass, where the opposition has snagged nearly 25 percent of its own missed shots so far this season. Over the past few seasons, rebounding has been a staple of the Thunder’s identity. This year with a new playing style and different personnel, Donovan is planning to drill his guys on the finer points of boxing out in a chaotic, crowded halfcourt to prevent second chances.
“We have not done a great job defensive rebounding,” Donovan said. “We can do a better job once we’re in rotations, scrambling and finding somebody. The guy we’re currently guarding may not be the guy we have to block out. That’s something we probably need repetition at.”
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– Anthony is the Thunder’s leading scorer thus far in the regular season, racking up 22.4 points per game to go with 2.9 assists thus far. He’s still finding his rhythm and understanding where his shots will come from when he’s playing off the ball. But in certain settings, Anthony is getting the chance to go to his bread and butter post-up game on the wings.
- “The game has been a little bit easier for myself. I’m still trying to get used to playing with the guys, finding my spots, and not playing with the ball as much as I’ve played with it in the past,” Anthony explained. “Which is good from my standpoint where I have an opportunity to play off the ball and let the ball find me and be a threat in other ways.”
- “I like that. It puts me on point a little bit more as far as where I need to be on the court, knowing where I’m at on the court with positioning, knowing my spots on the court,” Anthony added. “I feel comfortable being in those spots, those spots I’ve worked on throughout my whole career, all my life. Once I get to those spots, something productive is going to happen whether it’s for myself or my teammates.”
Thunder Talk: Carmelo Anthony
– Heading into Tuesday night, George is leading the NBA in deflections with 18 total, which equates to 6.0 per game and 5.7 per 36 minutes. George’s disruptiveness has been a huge catalyst for the Thunder’s defensive effort so far this season, and is something the team will rely upon.
- “(George) is in the right spots, that’s the biggest thing,” Donovan said. “Because he’s in the right spots he can use his length. He’s a really good help defender. He has really good vision and awareness and really good quickness. Because he positions himself in a really good spot most of the time, he’s able to get his hands on a lot of balls.”
– On offense, George is averaging 21.3 points and 3.7 assists per game thus far, but hasn’t quite found the rhythm on his shot, knocking down just 37.1 percent of his field goals and 33.3 percent of his threes thus far, compared to his averages of 46 percent and 39 percent respectively last season. Some early season adjustments are more than understandable, so George will just keep plugging away. He’s helping himself by freeing himself up on cuts in the lane and gliding finishes on drives to the basket.