Indiana beat Oklahoma City 91-88 on some stupid Summer League technicality, but that’s not really important. Some life-changing thoughts about the game…
- James Harden has so much control of his body it’s ridiculous. It’s very Manu-like, but he doesn’t fall backward when he attacks like Manu does. It’s more straightforward like Brandon Roy and he always gives himself a chance to put a shot up on the rim. Harden could be the ideal iso player late in games and between him and Westbrook, OKC may shoot 200 free throws a game. Harden was excellent again today (19 points on 6-13 shooting), hitting a couple open threes and also passing the ball extremely well. I haven’t been able to get a good read on him defensively, but the fact that I haven’t noticed him all that much on that end of the floor is probably a good thing. He did get his hands on a couple passes and showed some nice anticipation though.
- B.J. Mullens’ jumper looked incredibly good – for about a quarter. He swished a beautiful turnaround jumper then nailed a nice 18-footer, but then came up completely empty on a post jump hook and badly bricked a couple jumpshots after that. But hey, you can’t hit them all. One thing that’s becoming painfully obvious about Mullens besides the lack of a post-up game is his defense. Roy Hibbert absolutely had his way with him (24 points, eight rebounds). He’s slow on the rotations and he gets bullied in the post. He’s got to get stronger and he’s got to get tougher if he wants to bang with elite NBA bigs.
- Another thing about Mullens: His game actually is reminding me a lot of Nenad Krstic. At the end of the first quarter, Russell Westbrook and him ran a perfect pick and roll and Mullens popped and calmly hit the jumper with time winding down.
- Shaun Livingston was in street clothes for the game and I’m pretty sure it was only because management probably didn’t want him to play. For one, they are probably trying to limit him exerting that much in back-to-back games, but also because he really doesn’t need a whole lot of time in Orlando. We all know he can play and he looked just fine yesterday. I imagine he’ll play tomorrow and maybe Friday, but I’m not so sure they’ll even send him out to Vegas if he does well the rest of the week.
- For some reason I thought Westbrook would play less, but he actually played more (34 minutes). And he played extremely well. Though he did cough it up five times, he was efficient from the floor (9-15) and dished out eight assists. He scored 22 again and I think he could have gone for 40 if he really wanted to. Down the stretch he really took over and got to the rim any time he wanted. Westbrook hit a couple of nice pull-up free throw line jumpers and hit a nice rhythm 20-footer. More than anything, I think these games are really giving his confidence a boost. Look, we all know he’s not where he should be and he still gets in the lane and picks up his dribble with nowhere to go, but he’s just a 20-year-old second-year player that’s trying to get better. And 22 and eight on 60 percent shooting is pretty darn good.
- One other thought on Westbrook’s shooting: His dribble pull-up jay looks much improved. It’s more fluid and has a lot more continuity. But for some reason he’s just not a great catch-and-shoot guy. Both threes he missed were the catch-and-shoot variety and one thing I noticed today that he seems to do is bring the ball down just a titch before pulling up to shoot when he’s fires off the catch. When he shoots off the dribble it’s all in rhythm and he doesn’t have a chance to “load up.” He’s got nice mechanics, but off the catch, they could be better.
- David Thorpe on James Harden: “When I do my first rookie report, James Harden will be in the top 3. Book it.”
- Serge Ibaka scored 13 on 6-7 shooting in 22 minutes, but grabbed just three rebounds. Much like Mullens, he’s got to get more physical in the paint. When you’re playing the 5 you need more than three boards. But Ibaka showcased his little jumper again and probably is the best back-to-the-basket big man on the Summer League roster. Neither Mullens or D.J. White have a whole lot of game on the blocks, but Ibaka is willing to post. I am thoroughly impressed by his skillset.
- Moses Ehambe got in for three minutes and did absolutely nothing. No literally. He didn’t put anything in the box score. He was a three-trillionaire. Gotta be a record.
- Kyle Hines played 10 minutes scoring four points and grabbing five rebounds. Just you now, De’Angelo.
- Robert Vaden finally got a chance to show off his stroke a little today going 3-4 from the field and 1-2 from three for eight points. As soon as he entered he hit a nice transition three and was fouled on it for a four-point play.
- Late in the game I noticed a few guys on the Thunder bench standing and rooting their teammates on, headed by Russell Westbrook. Here we are in the Summer League and Westbrook was up clapping and hollering at his teammates. It may have been meaningless July game, but these guys wanted to win and wanted to get better. I think this sort of attitude is what is most encouraging about this team.
And if you’re wondering how Indiana won, the game was tied at 88-88 with the Thunder in possession, but as a result of D.J.’s 7th foul (which was an offensive one), the Pacers got to shoot two free throws which ended up being the difference. It’s some quirky Summer League rule. But it’s not like it matters at all.
Tomorrow’s tip is at 4 p.m. against Boston.