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ThunderNotes: Thunder ready for preseason finale vs. Nuggets

  • By Fred Katz | Thunder Beat Writer
  • Updated

OKLAHOMA CITY — The Oklahoma City Thunder played their rotation players more minutes against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Sunday than they had against anyone else.

With injuries and minutes limitations getting in the way, coach Billy Donovan hadn't been able to draw a preseason mockup of regular-season substitution patterns. He came close to that over the first three quarters against the Wolves.

Russell Westbrook played a preseason-high 30 minutes over three periods. Victor Oladipo got back up to 27 after playing a mere 17 in the previous game. Steven Adams, Enes Kanter, and Andre Roberson returned from injury and got ample time.

Donovan still isn't sure if he will continue that strategy into Tuesday's preseason finale against the Denver Nuggets.

"I’ll visit with Russell and try to talk to him a little bit," Donovan said. "Same thing with Steven. Same thing with Enes, and talk to the medical staff, Andre – all those guys, just to see where they’re at."

The Thunder busted out an early lead against the Timberwolves, who were resting their top guys on the second night of a back-to-back. OKC maintained the lead throughout the game, eventually closing out a 112-94 victory to improve to 2-3 in the preseason.

It was quite the change from playing Westbrook between 15 and 24 minutes, as the Thunder had in the first four preseason games.

"I thought yesterday was a good day for us," Donovan said Monday. "Today was another good day. We’ll see what happens tomorrow at shootaround, and then we’ll probably come up with a plan of what we want to do in the Denver game."

• Keeping It Hip: Alex Abrines left Sunday night's game early and did not return. The team is calling his injury a right hip contusion. 

He didn't practice Monday either, per Donovan, and his status for Tuesday night is uncertain. 

Anthony Morrow wasn't with the team Tuesday after missing Monday's game. Morrow's girlfriend is in labor, about to give birth to twin boys. 

"He’s still at the hospital now," Donovan said Monday morning. "We’re praying everything goes well. I really have no update other than that."

His status for Tuesday is uncertain, as well.

• Father Figure: Steven Adams joked earlier this year that he felt like a father to rookie Domantas Sabonis, who is only three years younger than the Thunder center. But he wasn't kidding about the mentoring part.

When the Thunder practice, they break up into specific groups. The big men usually work out together. That means Adams, Kanter, Sabonis and more sequester themselves in a corner of the gym and go through drills together. 

Adams has become impressed with the rookie quickly.

"Dude is so smart," Adams said. "Just, like, his basketball IQ and making reads and stuff."

Sabonis has shown off his skills of the body and mind early, infiltrating the first unit immediately. He's started all five preseason games. Intuition makes him the favorite to stay in the first unit once the regular season begins.

Yet, he still wants to learn.

"When you give him advice, it’s not falling on deaf ears," Adams said. "He’s actually trying to use the information and implement it into his game, which is terrific, because it helps our system out a whole bunch, and makes progress a lot faster. So, kudos to him, mate."


Fred Katz is the Thunder beat writer for the Norman Transcript and CNHI Oklahoma as well as the host of the Locked on Thunder podcast. Follow him on Twitter: @FredKatz.