Sam Presti called this season "a period of discovery" when those words came out of his mouth before Thunder training camp got underway. You have to wonder, was Abdel Nader in the back of Presti's mind? The third-year forward out of Iowa State is making the most of his minutes tonight he followed up his career-high 23 point performance against Portland by scoring 19 in the Thunder's 109-104 victory over the Pelicans.
Nader sees more time on the floor while Hamidou Diallo is out with a knee strain. Nader is also gaining attention from his teammates and his head coach. Billy Donovan says that "there is nobody that works harder and who is in the gym more than he is." Donovan adds that the offensive success Nader is having is a byproduct of his work ethic. Chris Paul says Nader is playing with the right spirit, by letting the game come to him and shooting with confidence.
While Nader certainly earned his prise tonight, let's not forget what Steven Adams is doing for this team. Adams, who has been fighting his way through a knee contusion and has seen his minutes reduced from 33 per game to 26 sealed the Thunder win with a monster dunk on an assist from Dennis Schroder. That dunk came with 15 seconds left and was only Adams second bucket of the night after scoring 10 of Oklahoma City's first 16 points. Adams was abusing rookie Jaxson Hayes which forced Alvin Gentry to bring in Jahil Okafor. Billy Donovan says that the size of Okafor and Adams together made it tough for either guy to do a lot in the second half.
The move of the night goes to Dennis Schroder, who, with 7:43 left, sent JJ Redick sliding on a cross-up that turned into a 22-foot jumper. That started a rough stretch for Redick, who had his layup blocked by Nerlens Noel on the ensuing possession, was then called foul and tech all within 45 seconds.
The Thunder will look to sweep New Orleans in this two-game series on Sunday at the Smoothie King Center. Tipoff is at 4:00 on Fox Sports Oklahoma, 98.1 WWLS, and 97.1 The Sports Animal in Tulsa.