Everything you need to know as the OKC Thunder returns to competitive action in a scrimmage versus the Celtics.
OKC Thunder head coach, Billy Donovan gave his club the day off Thursday for rest following six consecutive days of practice (and 12 days out of the past 13). The head coach stated the team would meet early to run through objectives for their first competitive action in 138 days. That Sunday, March 8th match coincidentally was versus today’s opponent — the Boston Celtics.
That last-minute victory falls in the statement win category as the Thunder capitalized on their closing time prowess and featured the Clutch King himself in two critical game-changing plays.
With 13.8 seconds on the clock, CP3 cut off Kemba Walker forcing him to turn toward the Thunder basket while Dennis Schroder swooped in for the steal and easy lay-in. On the ensuing play, Paul bodied up Jayson Tatum not allowing him to drive past him which resulted in an off-balance fall-away shot that careened off the rim to give OKC the 105-104 victory.
Today’s scrimmage isn’t likely to be remotely close to that level of intensity but it will serve as a great test of where the players are in terms of conditioning, rhythm, timing, pace, and chemistry. The clubs will play four 10-minute quarters instead of the typical 12-minute frames.
Is everyone available and how much will they play?
Although Donovan said everyone was available to play in his postpractice media session on Wednesday, it doesn’t mean all the core contributors will see action. Nerlens Noel is nursing an ankle sprain but depending on what the medical staff say could be approved for limited action.
Even if the typical starters play their minutes will be monitored as he eases the players back with particular emphasis on the vets. Donovan specifically cited Chris Paul, Steven Adams, Danilo Gallinari, Dennis Schroder, and also Andre Roberson as players the coaching staff would load manage.
Hopefully, this isn’t a deja vu situation as Donovan hinted Roberson would return in the past two preseasons but never saw action. Based on the feedback his teammates have provided it does feel different this time – is the third time the charm?
Reduced minute allocation for the core will open the door for Donovan to tinker with lineups to get a look at the youngsters and in varying combinations.
In truth, it’s not wise to expect much from these first scrimmages. The team will want to get a look at how close they are to resembling their pre-suspension selves. How is their pace, their rhythm and fluidity, spacing, and what specific areas are they lagging in.
Given the key players are all capable of scoring, the defense will likely be the focus although as noted above any upgrade in the offense will be welcome.
More from Thunderous Intentions
- OKC Thunder: 3 season goals for Mike Muscala in 2020-21
- Why the OKC Thunder signed Josh Hall to a two-way deal
- OKC Thunder: NBA issues 134-page COVID-19 health and safety protocols
- OKC Thunder: 3 season goals for Justin Jackson in 2020-21
- OKC Thunder gain tax exemption and pick for facilitating Gallinari sign and trade
As we noted in our recent article, Erik Spoelstra initiated reaching out to the Heat scrimmage opponents to coordinate efforts on specific items each team wants to work on. When asked about this process, Donovan was open to a dialogue with his counterparts.
This is a highly unusual practice, however, this is also a highly unusual situation. Teams typically have six or seven weeks after the All-Star break to build momentum for the postseason. In Florida, they have eight games.
Making the situation more feasible is OKC doesn’t play any of the same opponents from the scrimmages in their eight seeding games so working together can help expedite both club’s needs assessment.
Celtics Injury Notes:
- Kemba Walker is working his way back from a left knee injury. He practiced on Thursday but will be held out of the scrimmage.
- Tremont Waters is also out while he works through the concussion protocol program.
- With an absence of guards, it should equate to additional minutes for Brad Wanamaker and Carsen Edwards.
Where can fans watch or listen to the game?
Fans can view the game on the OKC Thunder app or on the OKC Thunder.com website via a live stream. Radio listeners can tune into Matt Pinto on WWLS-FM 98.1 – the flagship station for the Thunder Radio Network
The game will tip-off at 4:00 p.m. Central Time (5:00 p.m. EST)
Future scrimmages, dates, times:
Scrimmage 2 occurs on Sunday, July 26 versus the Philadelphia 76ers (super early) with an 11:00 a.m CT tipoff. Viewing will again be available via the website, and app as the franchise live steams the game.
Scrimmage 3 occurs on Tuesday, July 28 versus the Portland Trail Blazers at 5:00 p.m. CT. and will air on Fox Sports Oklahoma.
Following the three scrimmages the OKC Thunder will play the Utah Jazz on August 1st, in the first of eight seeding games to finish the regular season and determine playoff seeding.