Den­nis Schroder sta­bi­liz­ing sec­ond unit

The Oklahoman (Sunday) - - SPORTS - STAFF WRITER Erik Horne ehorne@ ok­la­


D.C. — Paul Ge­orge was strug­gling, but the Thun­der’s of­fense wasn’t. That was a rar­ity in re­cent sea­sons with one star on the floor for the Thun­der.

What a dif­fer­ence Den­nis Schröder has made in eight games, and what a dif­fer­ence Schröder made in the Thun­der’s two-game road sweep of Char­lotte and Wash­ing­ton.

On the east coast swing, Schröder av­er­aged 18.5 points on 50 per­cent from the field while shoot­ing 4-of-9 from 3-point range. In the Thun­der’s 134-111 win Fri­day, Schröder was at his ef­fi­cient best.

With the score tied 30-30, nei­ther team play­ing was play­ing much de­fense. That was un­til Schröder and Patrick Pat­ter­son trapped John Wall and Schröder came up with a steal.

Ge­orge likes to play en­tire first quar­ters. Last sea­son, it of­ten left him as the lone scor­ing op­tion sur­rounded by four bench play­ers when Rus­sell West­brook, Steven Adams and Carmelo An­thony subbed out.

Ge­orge didn’t have to carry that weight at the end of the first Fri­day. He drove and passed out to Schröder, who hit one of his two 3-point­ers en route to 16 points. Schröder was in­stru­men­tal in the Thun­der shut­ting out the Wizards the fi­nal 2:42 of the first quar­ter, which was the pre­cur­sor to the dom­i­nant 44-20 sec­ond pe­riod.

“We’ve just got a good rhythm now,” Ge­orge said. “Most of last year I was still try­ing to fig­ure it out with the start­ing group, fig­ure it out with the sec­ond unit.”

It helps rhythm play­ing with a tal­ent like Schröder.

Grant move pay­ing off

Since Thun­der coach Billy Dono­van moved Jerami Grant to the start­ing lineup, the Thun­der has been 9.5 points per 100 pos­ses­sions bet­ter than the op­po­si­tion. Only Golden State (16.7), Mil­wau­kee (15.2) and Sacra­mento (11.2) have been bet­ter over their last five games.

In that span, Grant is av­er­ag­ing 13.6 points and five re­bounds and shoot­ing 40 per­cent (6-of-15) from 3-point range.

“Those are good threes for him, he's been get­ting the wing and the cor­ner,” Dono­van said af­ter Grant’s 22 points and two 3-point­ers against the Wizards. “Then he did good things around the bas­ket and then ob­vi­ously his ver­sa­til­ity de­fen­sively. You can do so many dif­fer­ent things with him.”

Fer­gu­son not wor­ried about noise

Through­out his earl­y­sea­son strug­gles, Ter­rance Fer­gu­son has re­mained res­o­lute.

He re­paid Dono­van’s trust in keep­ing him in the start­ing lineup with nine points on three 3-point­ers against the Wizards.

“He def­i­nitely be­lieves in me and my team­mates do as well,” said Fer­gu­son, who said he hasn’t fol­lowed the so­cial-me­dia clamor for Alex Abrines as the starter.

Dono­van said he hasn't started Abrines in or­der to keep his scor­ing im­pact with the sec­ond unit.

“I know they’ve got my back no mat­ter what. No mat­ter what I’m go­ing through, they’re al­ways in my ear putting con­fi­dence in my head. It feels good to be in that po­si­tion.”

Blue win opener

The Ok­la­homa City Blue opened the G League sea­son with a 124-89 win Fri­day against the Stock­ton (Calif.) Kings. Bryce Al­ford led the way with 23 points. Thun­der two-way play­ers Deonte Bur­ton (18 points) and Tyler Davis (15 points, 10 re­bounds) also played.


Thun­der guard Den­nis Schroder (17) makes a layup dur­ing a 134-111 win over the Wizards on Fri­day.

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