OKLAHOMA CITY — Two dribbles backing into a defender didn't lead to a dunk. Instead, Steven Adams flipped a righty hook shot.
A few possessions later, and again, no dunk. No layup. Another right-handed baby hook.
"Oh, I was just throwing them up, bro, just seeing what happens," Adams said about his 20-point performance Sunday night. "Just see how it goes."
It may have been an exhibition. And the Minnesota Timberwolves may have sat six of their best players on the second night of a back-to-back. But Adams dropping 20 isn't insignificant.
Before Sunday's 112-94 victory over Minnesota, he had never scored more than 17 points in a professional game. He never crested 16 during his sole season at University of Pittsburgh.
But the 20-point act, which came in just 22 minutes, wasn't about the numbers. It was about the way the shots came: Not just on dunks and dump-offs and putbacks, like Adams' points usually arrive, but also on hooks and floaters.
Adams kept, as he quipped, "throwing them up."
"It turned out OK," he said. "I didn't get in trouble or anything. They didn't sub me out for a while, so I was like, 'Oh, sweet," and let them go."
Adams may speak modestly about it, but turning the Thunder center into an offensive weapon beyond point-blank range can change the team's offense. He's worked on those moves before this year. He just hasn't broken them out with the volume he did Sunday.
According to NBA.com's play-by-play data, Adams attempted six hook shots against the Wolves. He made two of them. And he wasn't only going to the baby hook. He's added a floater, almost a rip-off of Brooklyn Nets center Brook Lopez's or Indiana Pacers center Al Jefferson's push shot from six or seven feet.
He attempted three of those Sunday and made two of them.
"Steven is developing offensively," coach Billy Donovan said. "You can attribute [that] to Steven's work and to [assistant coach] Mark Bryant. They've done a great job together."
Walk into a Thunder practice or get to a game hours early, and you'll find Adams and Bryant out on the floor together, jabbing at each other either with arms or words. Adams' pregame and off-day workout routine includes all those post moves he flashed Sunday and more: other dekes on the block, mid-range work, even some corner 3s.
The dunks are still there, even if Adams is building back conditioning after an ankle sprain kept him sidelined for almost two weeks' worth of games. He threw down a couple of arena-shaking slams on Wolves center Cole Aldrich in Sunday's return game.
"They consumed most of my energy, actually," Adams said. "I've gotta try and strategically place those guys, because, oh my God. I was so tired after all of them. Luckily, they called a timeout afterwards. I was like, 'Oh, thank you so much. Thank you.'"
Adding finesse, though, doesn't come at the expense of power. The two can and should complement each other.
"I think what happens sometimes is when Steven's rolling to the basket," Donovan said. "There are times he can't get to the rim all the way...A lot of times he's getting that ball in the pocket, he's getting that ball at eight feet. That's a good shot for him. He's really kind of mastered that shot."
With Kevin Durant gone, water cooler fodder has turned into questions over who gets the leftover touches.
Russell Westbrook will take a bunch. Victor Oladipo will grab some. Others will fall to Adams.
Sentiment is that Adams will get more opportunities with the ball just because it's natural, because he'll play more minutes, because there are more shots to go around. But there's more to it than that.
Adams could deserve a greater offensive load because of an arsenal of new shots, because of his screen-and-roll chemistry with Westbrook, who assisted on four of his eight made field goals Sunday.
"They've created a great combination, I think, in a lot of pick-and-rolls together," Donovan said. "But I think even if you look at last night, Steven's doing a lot better job around the basket, scoring and using his size in there. And Russell's done a great job finding him. So, I think it's something we can build on."
Don't concentrate on the percentages, though Adams combining to shoot 4-of-9 on his hook shots and floaters is perfectly efficient. The story here isn't about the economy of his shots. It's about the volume of them.
Those are nine attempts he wasn't trying a year ago. This season, he's hoisting them.
"Those shots in and around the paint, Steven has spent a lot of time working on them," Donovan said. "I think he's gotten better and better."