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Friday Bolts: 12.28.18

Nick Gallo (okcthunder.com) previews tonight’s game in Phoenix: “The outcomes of defensive adjustments speak for themselves, as the Thunder squad that rolls into a fourth and final meeting with the Phoenix Suns this year is one that is leading the NBA in turnovers forced (18.2), steals (10.4) and defensive rating (100.4 points allowed per 100 possessions). Most of those game-changing, possession-taking plays are occurring because of how aggressive the Thunder’s defense has been at the point of attack. “If I’m on the ball or P (George) is on the ball, we have good ball pressure, guards can’t see, making blind passes, and whoever’s on the weak side has been in the right spot, has been getting those steals,” Westbrook noted.”

Dave King (Bright Side of the Sun) previews tonight’s game from the other side: “The Suns already lost three times to Oklahoma City in the first 15 games of the season, with and without the Thunder’s best players. Be it Nerlens Noel or Steven Adams in the middle, young center Deandre Ayton has been taken to school on the ways of the NBA. In the first game on Oct. 28, the Thunder beat the Booker-less Suns without Steven Adams, but got 63 points, 28 rebounds, 12 assists and 11 steals from the trio of Russell Westbrook, Paul George and Nerlens Noel. The Thunder played game two without Westbrook, but Steven Adams and Paul George were tremendous and the Suns went down without much of a fight. Same players, same outcome for game three. Now on Friday night, rumor has it that Paul George might not play, so the Suns may never get the chance to play the entire Thunder team and yet still will likely go 0-4 against them.”

Tonight’s Injury Report:

The Thunder waived two-way big man Tyler Davis: “The Oklahoma City Thunder has waived two-way player Tyler Davis, it was announced today by Executive Vice President and General Manager Sam Presti. The center saw action in 15 games (eight starts) with the Oklahoma City Blue and averaged 17.2 points, 11.6 rebounds and 1.87 blocks in 26.7 minutes per game. Davis appeared in one game with the Thunder.”

Maddie Lee (Oklahoman) on the Thunder signing Donte Grantham to the vacant two-way roster spot: “The news of Grantham’s promotion was first reported by The Athletic. Grantham’s college career ended with a right ACL tear in January, cutting short his senior season. Since returning from injury, the power forward is averaging 10.7 points, 5.9 rebounds and 2.8 assists in nine games with the Thunder’s G League affiliate.”

Grant Hughes (B/R) has the Thunder fifth in his latest power rankings: “The Thunder fell at home against Minnesota by two and on the road in Houston by four on Christmas, continuing a season-long trend of rough results in close games. OKC is 6-11 with a minus-3.5 net rating when proceedings reach close-and-late status. The scoring is going to keep drying up on occasion, as the Thunder just don’t have reliable spacers. Jerami Grant, Steven Adams and Russell Westbrook should all be on the floor to close games, but those three don’t scare defenders into staying attached. Fortunately for OKC’s bogged down attack, it leads the league in offensive rebound rate and opponent turnover percentage. Those are the best ways to add volume to your possession counts when your efficiency is wanting. The schedule softens over the next two weeks. If the Thunder are opportunistic,they’ll use this upcoming stretch to pad their win total and climb into first place out West.”

FiveThirtyEight has the Thunder with the third-highest odds to win the NBA Finals: Trailing only the Warriors and Raptors at this point in the 2018-19 campaign.

Zach Cronin (TBN Sports) on the rise of Jerami Grant: “Grant has seen an uptick in playing time for various reasons, and we can’t help but speculate how much of that is attributed to his ability to stretch the floor. Oklahoma City is an awful shooting team. They’re last in three-point percentage, unable to throw paint onto a canvas. George and Grant are the only two guys shooting better than 33.0 percent from downtown. Anyone else who can connect with regularity will earn a spot in the rotation because of the dynamic they add. Through 33 games, Jerami Grant has knocked down 36.6 percent of his catch-and-shoot threes. That clip is respectable. The fascinating part is how defenders seemingly pay him no mind. NBA.com’s data states that not a single one of Grant’s threes has featured a defender within four feet of him. Of his 102 attempts, 86 fall into the “wide open” category, which has the defender six feet away or further on the shot. Then again, Russell Westbrook and Paul George require a surplus of attention.”

Around the League: The NBA sent an anti-tampering memo to every team…. Enes Kanter was ejected last night for a skirmish with the Greek Freak…. James Harden and the Rockets are on a roll…. 10 things Zach Lowe likes/doesn’t like…. Recapping last night’s NBA action.