OKLAHOMA CITY — No Russell Westbrook was to be expected. No Paul George was the surprise. The Oklahoma City Thunder wingman missed tonight’s game due to “personal reasons,” according to Billy Donovan.
All eyes then focused on newly acquired point guard Dennis Schröder and how he would mesh with his teammates in his first preseason game with the Thunder. It’s safe to say Schröder passed the test.
The former Atlanta Hawk scored 21 points on 5-of-16 shooting, including 2-of-3 from beyond the arc. He also dished out nine assists in 26 minutes of play. Impressively, six of those assists were to Steven Adams.
“I think the chemistry between me and Steven was pretty good tonight,” Schröder said in the postgame. “But we can take it to the next level.”
After Sunday’s Blue/White scrimmage, Schröder mentioned that the chemistry between he and Adams has grown quickly. The two have worked out together with other teammates in pick-up games in Los Angeles over the summer as well as training camp. Tonight truly showcased how dangerous these two can be on the floor in Westbrook’s absence.
What does that next level for a Schröder-Adams connection look like?
“How many assists did we have, today?” Schröder asked. “Six? Ten, fifteen. The sky’s the limit.”
Adams continued his rebounding dominance from a year ago with 12 boards, nine of which were offensive. He added 17 points to finish second on the team for the night.
“He’s completely unselfish,” Schröder said of Adams. “He does a lot of the ‘dirty’ things, I say, that don’t show up on the stat sheet. I think overall what he does for the team is good. Even offensive rebounds, getting a second shot opportunity is amazing.”
The Thunder started quickly and played fast. Donovan and Sam Presti have preached this level of play all preseason. Even without Westbrook and George, there were a lot of things to like about the first half.
The second half is where the improvements will need to be made.
“I thought the first half we really did a good job on both sides of the floor,” Donovan said after the game. “I don’t think we closed the second quarter great. But I thought we had really good pace, and tempo. Good ball movement.”
A 52-49 halftime lead was surrendered to a 75-73 deficit after the third.
“I thought in the second half we got stagnant,” Donovan added. “I do think this time of year we have to work on our stamina and continue to grow in conditioning to be able to sustain what we want to do for a full 48 minutes.
Sloppy play, going cold and players outside of Schröder, Adams and Raymond Felton — who finished with 12 points and five assists — not contributing much offensively caught up to Oklahoma City.
The Pistons were led by Andre Drummond with 31 points on 14-of-21 shooting. He added 16 rebounds in 33 minutes of play.
“The game just came to me,” Drummond said after the game. “Just got back into NBA mode again. That’s all it was.”
Oklahoma City had their chances to put the game away as they and Detroit traded lead changes in the third and fourth quarter. In the end, inconsistent play doomed the Thunder.
“It’s the first preseason game,” Felton said in the locker room. “Luckily this game doesn’t count, so it’s back to the drawing board. Need to have a good practice and move on to Minnesota.”
The Thunder will tip off at 7 p.m. in Minneapolis to take on the Timberwolves Friday night.