The Oklahoma City Thunder picked up a 113-94 win against the Atlanta Hawks in Tulsa on Sunday afternoon. The Thunder is now 2-1 in the preseason, and today’s game was a solid performance all around.
The Hawks took control of the game early as the Thunder looked sloppy on both ends of the floor and had to fight foul issues. Dennis Schröder was one of the few bright spots for Oklahoma City, as he finished the first quarter with nine points. Rookie Hamidou Diallo, who checked in early for the injured Terrance Ferguson, managed to put up seven points and two rebounds early as well. After the first period, Atlanta led 29-26 after a long buzzer-beater from DeAndre’ Bembry.
— OKC THUNDER (@okcthunder) October 7, 2018
Things quickly turned around for Oklahoma City as the defense was able to clamp down a bit, and the offense was able to find success due to a little contribution from just about everyone. Alex Abrines was able to hit from deep, Jerami Grant got involved on both ends, and the Thunder led 58-51 at the half.
Russ is loving the @okcthunder energy!
OKC 58 | @ATLHawks 51 at the break in Tulsa.
— NBA (@NBA) October 7, 2018
The third quarter saw an early scoring explosion from the Thunder as Paul George finally found his shot, scoring seven points in the span of a couple of minutes early in the period.
— SLAM (@SLAMonline) October 7, 2018
More importantly for Oklahoma City, the Thunder stepped up on defense and prevented Atlanta from getting much done. Oklahoma City was able to outscore Atlanta 35-16 in the period to take a 93-67 advantage into the final quarter.
— Bally Sports Oklahoma (@BallySportsOK) October 7, 2018
Paul George, Steven Adams, and Dennis Schröder took their exit after the third quarter, and the young fellas got plenty of run in the fourth as Oklahoma City was able to hold onto the big lead and finish strong.
— NBA TV (@NBATV) October 7, 2018
Thunder Player of the Game
Dennis Schröder has played well in his three preseason starts with Russell Westbrook still recovering from a knee scope, and today was Schröder’s best performance so far with OKC. He was the offensive spark early for the Thunder, and he finished the game with 20 points on 9-14 (64.3%) from the field, seven rebounds, and six assists. He has made good use of his time on the court with the starters, and when Russell Westbrook returns, Schröder will definitely be a key piece to what Oklahoma City wants to accomplish, regardless of who he is playing alongside.
Dennis Schröder did it all in the @okcthunder's win over ATL! ⚡️👀
📊: 20 PTS, 7 REB, 6 AST pic.twitter.com/4AaIosI7Mr
— NBA TV (@NBATV) October 7, 2018
3 Quick Thoughts
- Young Guys are Earning Rotation Minutes: Preseason is a good time for young guys, especially rookies, to get play time, and it’s been especially easy for the Thunder to do just that with the likes of Russell Westbrook and Andre Roberson sitting out due to injury. Today, several young bucks looked especially solid, and it is clear that some of them are going to work their way into a supporting role for the upcoming season. Rookie Hamidou Diallo looked especially impressive today as he made his way onto the court early in the first quarter, and he finished with 13 points and five rebounds. Diallo is long and athletic, a preferred player type by Thunder General Manager Sam Presti, and if he continues to play hard while putting up solid numbers, he will definitely find himself on the court.
- Free Throw Shooting Looks Much Improved: After shooting a second-to-last 71.6% from the free throw line a season ago, the Thunder has seen an upward trend in this year’s preseason. Oklahoma City shot 28-36 (77.8%) today and is shooting 76.7% through three games. While the preseason is not exactly the best predictor for how a season is going to go, if the higher free throw shooting percentages are any indicator of what is to come, the Thunder will be much better off than they were last year.
- Defense is Going to be Key Moving Forward: The Thunder was at its best last season when the defense was able to lock down opponents. After Andre Roberson went down with his knee injury, the defense fell off, and the stops were not as common. Billy Donovan wants the team to get out and run a lot this upcoming season, and being able to get out in transition starts on the defensive end. After getting off to a slow start, the Thunder picked up the defense in the second and third quarters especially, which made extending the lead that much easier. As a team, Oklahoma City finished with 14 steals and eight blocks while forcing Atlanta into 26 turnovers.
Next up for the Thunder is the preseason finale in Oklahoma City on Tuesday against the visiting Milwaukee Bucks. The Bucks are led by superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo, a 6’11” forward is capable of playing any position and doing just about anything the Bucks need him to do. Tip-off is set for 7 PM, and the game will be televised on NBA TV. The game will also be broadcast on the radio on WWLS 98.1 FM.