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Friday Bolts: 12.22.17

Friday Bolts: 12.22.17

Fox Sports previews tonight’s Thunder/Hawks match-up: “For the first time since beating Milwaukee on Halloween, Oklahoma City is over .500. The Thunder will carry a 16-15 record into a Friday night matchup against Atlanta, a team that’s far below that mark at 7-24 – good for the worst record in the NBA. It will mark the Hawks’ only trip to Oklahoma City this season. A big reason for Oklahoma City’s resurgence is its reigning-MVP point guard. Russell Westbrook shot 59.3 percent from the floor in his three previous games, a mark he hasn’t met since Oct. 22-27.”

Erik Horne says fixing the Thunder offense starts with making the easy ones: “Westbrook has made a living in isolation in his career, as have George and Anthony. Subtract those shots, however, and the Thunder is still missing layups, free throws, corner 3-pointers and shots in transition Thunder coach Billy Donovan preaches for success. The Thunder has been below par on corner 3-pointers, the shortest distance 3-pointers, but is shooting them the same in wins or losses (34.6 percent). With more firepower than last season, the Thunder is scoring the same number of points per possession in transition (1.08).”

Fred Katz on the Thunder defense: “In some ways, it’s odd, even if the defensive talent is obvious. Andre Roberson made All-Defensive Second Team a year ago. George has made four All-Defensive teams during his career and has a fantastic shot to make it again this season, when he’s been as bothersome as ever. The two combine for a top-flight combination on the wings. Steven Adams, meanwhile, seems destined for defensive accolades. But defense involves communication, understanding of teammates’ habits. A team with six new players shouldn’t have the automatic, shield-like cohesion the Thunder do.”

AJ Mason (USA Today) on forearm tightness Paul George says impacts his shot: “I’ve had a little forearm issue, right arm issue that’s been a little wacky for me to start this year out,” George said. “[I’ve] been trying to work through that, but once everything gets completely smoothed out, I’ll be back knocking down the mid-range, I’ll get comfortable in that mid-range area.”

Chase Hughes (NBC Washington) on the one way John Wall says Russell Westbrook is most like Kobe: “Every time he stepped on the court, he was dominant every day. He didn’t care who it was against, whether it was practice or a game, or shootaround or 1-on-1. He just had that killer mindset. I haven’t seen anybody with that type of killer instinct,” Wall said. No one compares to Bryant in that category, but there is one guy who stands out as the closest in today’s game. “The person that plays that type of dog I probably would say Russell [Westbrook]. He just goes all out. He doesn’t care, it doesn’t matter. No friends, no nothing. That’s the closest guy I would say to having that Kobe mentality,” Wall said.”

Eric Pincus (B/R) on the Lakers having eyes for Paul George and Boogie Cousins: “Considering LeBron James will turn 33 on Dec. 30, George and Cousins—both of whom are 27—may give the Lakers more longevity on their dollar. Neither has LeBron’s NBA Finals experience, but both would represent a significant upgrade in comparison to the incumbent talent. If landing James and one of the two is plan A, George and Cousins without James might be plan B.”

Adam Wells (B/R) on how serious Carmelo Anthony was about being in Houston: “Per ESPN’s Ian Begley, Anthony spent at least some portion of the offseason talking to his friends about playing alongside Paul in Houston this season and “eventually” James would join the group to become the Western Conference power that would take down the Golden State Warriors. “He went as far as to detail individual matchups between that hypothetical Rockets team and the Warriors,” Begley wrote, “surmising that he and the Rockets could take out the Warriors.”

Nick Gallo on Russell Westbrook picking up an assist at Homeland: “Westbrook slalomed through the meat and produce sections at an Oklahoma City Homeland grocery store on Thursday afternoon, where he helped the Quintana family pick up everything they needed and more for Christmas and the holiday season. While the crowd of Oklahomans who were going about their daily shopping lingered for moments to get a glimpse of Westbrook, snap a quick picture or give him a thumbs up, it was a up close and personal opportunity for the Quintana family to get to know Westbrook, and vice-a-versa.”

Around the League: All-Star voting is now open…. Daryl Morey says the Rockets are obsessed with beating the Warriors…. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is serving a 25-day sentence in Orange County but will practice/play under a work-release program…. Introducing the 2018 Hall of Fame candidates…. Referees and the NBPA are meeting to discuss growing tensions between players and officials.