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Switch To Short Rotation Helps Thunder To First Win In Orlando


A full 12-man rotation was used by the Thunder when the Grizzlies rolled to a 21-point victory Saturday evening. Yet, despite the display of depth in rotation, the same depth in scoring was severely lacking, as Perry Jones III and Jeremy Lamb were the only two players to exceed double digits in scoring. Needless to say, the Thunder suffered a 21-point rout at the hands of a Grizzlies team who played with a better overall rhythm.

One day later, Summer League Head Coach for the Thunder, Darko Rajakovic decided to go to a shorter, 10-man rotation. Not only did Rajakovic switch to a shorter rotation, but either he or the front office inexplicably gave both Jeremy Lamb and Mitch McGary the day off. After some offensive struggles, particularly in the 2nd quarter, the second half offense showed much more promise, especially at the start of the 4th, when the Thunder began chipping at the lead considerably. Unfortunately, it was too little too late by that point, as the Thunder dropped their second straight Summer League match-up by an 11-point margin.

Yesterday, Rajakovic decided to shorten the rotation even further, going to a mere 9-man rotation, as he decided to give Steven Adams and Jones yesterday off. Adams was a +4 during his time on the court the day before, and Jones was the leading scorer in the Summer League opener, so I understood what was up here. Especially when you take into consideration that Adams has been nursing a deep shin bruise since the opening game, I saw it as well-deserved, and well-earned time off for both guys. So how well did yesterday’s shorter rotation work against the Nets?

Of course some early back-and-forth action was to be expected, as the score was 9-7 in favor of the Nets less than 4 minutes in. That’s when the Thunder sparked a 7-0 run that gave them a 14-9 lead with 6:51 to play in the opening quarter. Not to be outdone, the Nets responded with a similar 7-0 run to reestablish a 2-point lead (16-14) with 4:38 remaining in the 1st. Buckets were traded the rest of the way as the Nets ended the 1st quarter up 24-22.

The 2nd quarter saw much struggle from both sides all the way up to the 8:43 mark. The Thunder were up 2 (26-24), when the Nets sparked another run, this one a 7-2 run that opened up a 3-point lead for the Nets (31-28) with 7:47 remaining in the first half. It was a run that the Thunder immediately answered, as they reclaimed a 34-33 lead with 5:36 to play until halftime. The game stayed close all the way up to halftime, with neither team earning themselves any room beyond a 2-point lead. The score was actually knotted up, 43-43, at halftime.

The 3rd quarter ended up no different from the 2nd, as by the time the 4th started, the Thunder’s 5-point lead from the 1st quarter had been the largest lead held by either team all day. Needless to say, this one was actually shaping up to be a competitive outing for once.

The 4th quarter was where the Thunder finally blew this game wide open. When the Thunder started their run, there were actually an even 30 seconds remaining in the 3rd quarter, with the Nets up 1 (65-64). This 21-7 run would be the one to seal the win for the Thunder, as the Nets suddenly saw themselves down 15 (86-71) with a mere 6:04 to play. The Thunder lead had actually extended to 18 (95-77) at the 2:31 mark, before they finally settled for a 98-84 win that puts the Summer League record for both squads at 1-2.

The switch to a 9-man rotation did wonders for the Thunder’s Starting 5, as all 5 starters hit double figures in scoring, with one also doubling in rebounds. While Lamb’s 26 points easily led all scorers to take the floor, Mitch McGary’s 18-point, 13-rebound double-double was a performance to behold as well. After both players sat the entirety of the 76ers game, they took outright control of yesterday’s game. Lamb set the tone early, scoring 5 of the Thunder’s first 12 points, and McGary cleaned up boards and scored late to seal the deal. You sometimes wonder why the Thunder make the decisions they make, and then you see the gambles pay off so effectively down the line. They weren’t the only two handling business for the Thunder, as 4th-year prospect Mario Little dropped 14 points, college slam-dunk contest standout Marcus Lewis finished with 13 points, and former NCAA Tournament Championship ring holder Nolan Smith finished with 11 points.

The Nets didn’t have many bright spots on offense yesterday, but 2nd-year player Mason Plumlee’s 13 points off of 4-for-6 (66.7%) shooting was something for the Nets to hang their collective hat on. 6th-year pro DaJuan Summers was good for 12 points, as was 7th-year pro Michael Jenkins off of the Nets’ bench. But beyond 2nd-year pro Marquis Teague’s 10 points there really wasn’t much else to see from the Nets yesterday.

At least the Thunder finally get a day off before getting at least one more showdown with the Indiana Pacers. Coverage begins at 2pm/1pm CST tomorrow on NBA TV. Don’t miss it!

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