‘They’re just like us:’ Casey likens improving Oklahoma City Thunder to Pistons

Detroit News

Detroit — The Oklahoma City Thunder will visit Little Caesars Arena on Tuesday, marking the first of two home preseason games this week for the Pistons to wrap up the exhibition season.

Still searching for its first preseason win, Detroit will host a Thunder team that has won three of four preseason games over the last seven days.

The matchup was supposed to be the first clash between Pistons lottery picks Jaden Ivey and Jalen Duren and Chet Holmgren, the No. 2 overall selection in this summer’s draft. However, Holmgren will miss his rookie season due to a devastating foot injury.

Despite the loss of their 7-foot big man, the Thunder’s young core, featuring Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Josh Giddey, Luguentz Dort and Tre Mann, have kept the team afloat. Pistons coach Dwane Casey likened Oklahoma City’s team to his own after Monday’s practice.

“They’re just like us. They’re a very young team, athletic team,” Casey said. “They depend on each other to be able to score. They’ve gotta have each other, so they’re kind of in the same boat we are from the experience standpoint and where they are in their rebuild. It’s a good challenge for us tomorrow night. This team plays hard. They play aggressive, a lot like we try to do. It’s going to be a good test for our guys tomorrow night being at home.”

The Thunder won their preseason opener, 112-101, last Monday against the Denver Nuggets, but fell to the Dallas Mavericks by two points on Wednesday. Oklahoma City’s last two exhibitions resulted in blowout victories over international teams, the Adelaide 36ers and Ra’anana Maccabi Ra’anana.

Casey had an experienced team during his years in Toronto and noted that veteran teams don’t need a longer preseason slate. However, he’s an advocate for as many preseason games as possible for a young team because they help continuity.

“We had some foreign teams come in (to Toronto) as an extra game, sort of like what OKC did, just to give our younger guys some experience,” Casey said, “but for a young team, I like as many exhibitions as we can get, as long as we stay healthy.”

The Pistons aren’t at 100% just yet, as a few of the former Knicks — Alec Burks, Nerlens Noel and Kevin Knox —continue to work their way back into the mix. Jalen Duren (left shoulder) participated in Monday’s practice, Casey said, but he’s still sore and his status for Tuesday’s game against the Thunder is still undetermined. Hamidou Diallo is still listed as day-to-day because of a left quad injury.

Detroit has dropped its last two games to the New York Knicks and Pelicans, primarily due to the inability to take care of the ball. The team had 22 turnovers against the physical Knicks and they gave the ball up 21 times against the Pelicans.

Casey is stressing the importance of cutting down on those turnovers, because it’ll ultimately lead to more shot attempts and chances to compete in games.

“Twenty-two is way too many (turnovers),” Casey said. “That’s a concern, to make sure we get those down and make simple plays. We’re getting in certain places and playing in the crowd, passing in the crowd and we can’t do that in our league.”

Casey said he’d optimistically like to get to around 12-14 turnovers per night, and he’d really be happy if they were at zero.

“Zero, that’s the best possible,” Casey said, “but we’ve made improvement on that last year as the year went on. We started out high, but again, we want to start out where we left off last year with taking care of the ball. That’s another part of our shot spectrum. You gotta have attempts. The multiple (shot) attempts is what you’re trying to get to and if you’re turning it over, that’s less opportunities you have to shoot.”

Thunder at Pistons

Tipoff: 7 Tuesday, Little Caesars Arena

TV/radio: BSD/97.1

Outlook: The Pistons (0-2) play their first of two preseason home games against the Thunder (3-1), who will be without No. 2 overall pick Chet Holmgren, who had a season-ending foot injury in the summer.


Twitter: @MikeACurtis2

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