Last night, the Thunder ended their preseason with a win against the Milwaukee Bucks after one overtime, 119-115 the final score.
It has been a fun game despite many players missing (due to injuries or rest) on both teams. In the first quarter, Thunder’s defense has been pretty lazy, didn’t force a single turnover, and allowed the Bucks to score thirty points. Much better was the second quarter, where Oklahoma City played with more effort on the defensive side of the floor and was able to be effective on offense, led by an impressive Paul George’s performance.
The second half has been more of a showdown for both second and third units but, this factor didn’t make the game less fun. Both teams were filled with players fighting to gain some minutes for when the regular season starts, especially on the Bucks side. After a tied third quarter, 24-24, the Bucks were able to take the game to overtime thanks to a clutch Frazier three-pointer. However, overtime was Deonte Burton time. The two-way contract player scored eleven points in the extra time (out of twelve Thunder total) and led Oklahoma City to the win.
Paul Geroge is ready
Paul George had an excellent performance against the Bucks. He played only eighteen minutes, all in the first half, but finished with an efficient twenty-six points (8-13 FG, 3-5 3PT, 7-8 FT), four rebounds, one assist, and one steal. George looks ready for the season, ready for the challenge.
Steven Adams’ offensive game improved so much in the past couple of years, but somehow the Thunder are underutilizing his potential. Yesterday was another clear example. It’s obviously preseason, and the big man played only sixteen minutes, but Steven should have got the ball more in the post. Adams took only four shots. He definitely needs more than that.
Hamidou Diallo might be the man
Another important performance for Hamidou Diallo. The rookie didn’t disappoint against the Bucks. He finished the game with nineteen points (8-16 FG, 3-5 3PT), five rebounds, four assists, one steal, and one block. He played thirty-nine minutes, some of these minutes were shared with the starters, and some with the backups. Diallo was ready in both cases. His defense and athleticism will keep him on the court most nights during the regular season. It definitely doesn’t hurt that he is playing without fears and with great confidence. He is not afraid to shoot, to attack the basket, and to go for the offensive rebounds. It might have been just preseason, but Diallo showed he can play meaningful minutes in the NBA.
The second unit looks solid
One of the main issues for the Thunder in the past years has always been the second unit. This year Presti assembled a good combination of backup players. From Schröder to Noel, from Grant (or Patterson) to Luwawu-Cabarrot. Oklahoma City’s bench seems in good hands. Last night, Noel was really the most impressive. He played a good amount of minutes (thirty-three) and showed his abilities on both ends of the floor. When Steven Adams will get a rest during the regular season, the Thunder won’t suffer that much, as the past years, at the “five” position.
Defense: ups & downs
It’s always hard to judge aspects of the game during the preseason. It’s normal for players to do not play 100% on both ends of the floor but it’s still possible to see the team’s direction. The defense for example. In the first quarter, the Thunder played a very sloppy defense, didn’t force any turnovers and the Bucks scored at will. Second quarter? A completely different story. Oklahoma City looked in, forced eight turnovers and allowed the Bucks to score only eighteen points. The same happened on Sunday against the Hawks in the 2nd and 3rd quarters. Hopefully, for Thunder’s fans, there will be more “second quarter efforts” than the first quarter during the regular reason.
The Thunder’s preseason ends with three wins and one loss. Today starts the last week of training camp, while next Tuesday, the first official game against the Golden State Warriors, will kickstart the regular season.