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Friday Bolts: 11.23.18

Nick Gallo (okcthunder.com) previews tonight’s game against the Hornets: “With victories in 11 of its past 13 games, the 11-6 Thunder has flipped the script on an 0-4 start and is tied for third in the Western Conference standings, though obviously it is still early and jumbled up. 14 of the 15 teams in the West are within 5.5 games of one another. The Thunder’s November streak was really supercharged by another back-to-back, starting in Charlotte then on to Washington, D.C. just three weeks ago. The Thunder gutted out a huge come-from-behind victory in Charlotte, and part of that came from going small and playing an up-tempo, high-paced style. Against a Hornets team that doesn’t really play any traditional big men, but rather highly skilled, shooting forwards in the frontcourt, the Thunder must be ready to execute that type of game plan again.”

Sam Perley (Hornets.com) previews tonight from the other side: “The Hornets will look to get more from Cody Zeller in this one, who was limited to just five points on 2-of-4 shooting in 27 minutes against OKC three weeks ago. He just had a season-high 15 points against Indiana and over his last six outings, is putting up 11.5 points, 5.3 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.2 steals. This stretch also includes a team-best 100.0 defensive rating in five appearances between Nov. 9-19. Zeller will be matched up against fellow 2013 NBA Draftee and arguably one of the strongest players in the league today in Steven Adams. Through Nov. 19, the Kiwi is averaging a career-high 15.6 points and 10.4 rebounds, nearly half of which (4.9) are on the offensive end (second most in the NBA). Adams uses his strength for positioning around the rim, allowing a surplus of opportunities for tip-outs and second-chance-point attempts.”

Erik Horne (Oklahoman) with a Hamidou Diallo update: “Thunder guard Hamidou Diallo was re-evaluated Thursday and diagnosed with a left ankle sprain, according to the Thunder – an encouraging sign considering his reaction to an injury against the Warriors on Wednesday. With about 7:23 left in the fourth quarter, the rookie landed awkwardly on his left ankle and leg, having to leave the game on a stretcher as a result. Following the game, the Thunder said Warriors physicians ruled out any severe lower body injuries for Diallo.”

Clay Horning (Norman Transcript) on the upcoming homestand being fueled by the win in Oakland: “It’s not clear if the Thunder have been fortunate or less than fortunate thus far this season. What is clear, however, as two home games loom against Charlotte and Denver tonight and Saturday, is the Thunder are playing very well and, on the health front, it could certainly be worse. Wednesday, on the road, Oklahoma City downed Steph Curry-less Golden State 123-95 to make it 11 of 13 victories since beginning the season 0-4, putting itself in position to get to 15-6 before going out on the road again. After Charlotte (9-8) and Denver (11-7), it’s Cleveland (2-14) at Chesapeake Energy Arena Nov. 29 and Atlanta (3-15) on Nov. 30.”

Steven Adams and Paul George make the list:

Grant Hughes (B/R) has the Thunder third in his NBA power rankings: “Don’t look now, but five-position defender Jerami Grant is also upping his volume from deep. He’s at 35.4 percent on 2.8 attempts per game. For Grant to be immensely valuable, he doesn’t even have to hit threes at a league-average rate; his defensive worth is that high. But now that Grant offers just a bit more stretch, he becomes playable against absolutely anyone. He’s fighting his own ankle issues now, but as a long-term piece, Grant looks on pace to more than justify his three-year, $27 million deal. Built on a smothering, physical, active defense, the Thunder are a nightmare opponent—and that’s without even considering the downhill offensive attack Westbrook can generate. That 0-4 start feels like it happened years ago. ”

Rohan Nadkarni (SI) on what the Thunder should be thankful for: “OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER: PAUL GEORGE’S AGENTwho apparently was so mad at the Lakers he didn’t want George to meet with them? Whatever the case, George decided to make a long-term commitment to OKC, and now the Thunder can at least be respectable and hope to strike if/when the Warriors break up. George is an important part of this team’s future. Westbrook’s health and athleticism will be major questions as his cap figure balloons. There may come a time when George has to become the leader of this team. Right now, the Thunder are on a bit of a hot streak. Remember: They become a different group when Andre Roberson is healthy.”

Paul George will release a “PlayStation” colorway of his Nike PG 2.5 sneaker:

Around the League: Vince Carter reached the 25,000-point plateau for his career…. LeBron loved his first trip to Cleveland as a Laker…. The Lakers want a more aggressive Lonzo Ball…. A look at the race for MVP.