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Thunder Practice Report: Roberson Ready For DeRozan Matchup

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Here are some highlights from Tuesday's Thunder practice: 

Roberson ready for DeRozan matchup

The Thunder will be back in action on Wednesday night when the Raptors come to town, and if OKC hopes to continue their winning ways, shutting down Toronto’s Demar DeRozan is the first order of business.

Related: Thunder Stay Undefeated At Home With 97-85 Win Over Miami

DeRozan is leading the NBA in scoring with a 33.7 point per game average and totaled 30 or more points in his first five games of this season. Not only is he scoring, but DeRozan is doing it efficiently with a 52.4 field goal percentage.

“He’s hot, he’s a great player,” Roberson said of DeRozan heading into their matchup. “He’s coming on with a lot of confidence this year and we’ve got to do our best to go out there and kind of shut him down a little bit. Get in our coverages, get back in transition, stick down on his pump fakes, I think we’ll be ready for him tomorrow.”

A lot of DeRozan’s points come from the free throw line, where he’s shooting an average of 9.2 per game. It’ll be up to guys like Roberson, Oladipo and Jerami Grant to ensure DeRozan doesn’t get a lot of opportunities at the charity stripe on Wednesday night.

“It’ll definitely be a challenge tomorrow because he’s so good at it,” Roberson said of DeRozan’s ability to draw fouls. “He kind of shows the ref that he gets touched, he shows it more than others kind of like James Harden type of guy.

“Just stay down on pump fakes, try to be physical from the jump kind of makes it a little bit more easier, let the referees know you’re trying to set the tone and that’s what we need from everybody tomorrow, not just on Derozan but Kyle [Lowry], [Jonas] Valanciunas and other guys coming off the bench. I think it’ll be a good test for us tomorrow.”

Donovan still experimenting with different lineups

While the Thunder has had some success throughout the early part of this season, head coach Billy Donovan will continue to tinker with OKC’s lineup.

When talking about the versatility of the Thunder’s roster, Donovan mentioned that we could see rookie Domantas Sabonis play the center position in a potential small-ball lineup in the future.

“We can do a lot of different things,” Donovan said of his lineups. “Domas’s versatility, hopefully we’ll get to a point where we look at potentially playing four guards or a small lineup, or really want to go small I think you can put a guy like Domas at the center spot, could be a guy who can shoot it, stretch it.”

Sabonis scored a career-high 15 points to go with his 10 rebounds in OKC’s win over the Heat on Monday in 30 minutes of action.

To win in today’s NBA, teams must be able to do more than one thing, and there’s no better proof of that than last year’s Western Conference playoffs. OKC had to go big in order to beat the Spurs, then had to adjust to a smaller lineup in order to compete with the Warriors in the next round.

Sabonis’s shooting touch and ability to bang in the post is what made him a lottery selection in the most recent draft, and it allows his new coach the opportunity to try out new lineups and see what works.  

Semaj Christon improving

One of the surprises of training camp was the Thunder’s decision to cut veteran point guard Ronnie Price and go with Semaj Christon as the team’s backup point guard to start the year.

After a lackluster performance in OKC’s first three games, Christon has been more confident as of late. Christon is averaging 5.5 points and 3.5 assists in the last four games while even grabbing four rebounds in OKC’s win over the Heat.

“Sometimes when you’re a point guard, you’ve got to take control of a team get guys in the right spots and I think an area of growth for him is the fact that guys trust him, guys like him,” Donovan said of Christon. “Him stepping up now and providing that leadership. He’s got a really good feel of how to play, he understands the game, he’s unselfish he does a lot of different things.”

Even though this is Christon’s third year out of college, it’s his first year to actually play in the league, and the former Xavier Musketeer is enjoying his time with the Thunder.

“I’m having fun, just enjoying my time here being able to compete and play,” Christon said. “I always dreamed of this so it’s fun, I’m having fun.”

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