Nick Gallo recaps last night’s loss to the Brooklyn Nets: “In the first quarter, the paint was the Thunder’s domain, as it built up a 16-point lead and scored 33 points behind an attacking mindset. The tone was set by Russell Westbrook, who went to the free throw line 5 times in the opening frame while scoring 8 of his 31 total points in the first 8:20 of his night. The game started to turn midway through the second quarter, when the Thunder got loose on defense and a few breakdowns resulted in wide open straight-line drives to the bucket for Brooklyn. After holding the Nets to just 4 points in the paint in the first quarter, the Thunder gave up 16 in the second period alone. Brooklyn began to play freely from there on out, fueled with the confidence of seeing some easy baskets go in.”
Fred Katz on the Thunder reverting to previous habits: “There’s a saying, progression isn’t linear. It’s a fine lesson. Just because someone is improving doesn’t mean there’s improvement at every possible increment. There are always setbacks. But Thursday’s was just so obvious, so unnecessary, so self inflicted against a team OKC could simply out-talent even with all the injuries. Many of the issues so far this year have been of that ilk. The Thunder have been doing this to themselves. And Thursday’s reversal made one element clear: they’re not done hurting themselves yet.”
Brett Dawson on fans in Mexico City showing love to Russell Westbrook: “All Westbrook had to do was dribble to wow the crowd. They cheered his first bounce of the ball, and kept cheering as he crossed halfcourt. Before he’d scored a point, the fans let loose a chant that spells respect in any language: “M-V-P! M-V-P!” The Nets were the home team on the scoreboard Thursday night, but there was little doubt who the fans had come to see.”
Westbrook’s health is something to monitor:
Brett Dawson had a Q&A session with Steven Adams before yesterday’s game in Mexico City: “You said you haven’t gotten to explore the city much. I assume you’ve been on a bus. Did you notice the traffic? “Yeah. The traffic’s awful, mate. Oh my God. It’s unbelievable. But there’s so much more than just that. I’ve been browsing out the window. But it’s definitely (about) getting amongst it. Some of the boys, they’re a bit weary about the old water here. Is that right? The water here? It’s a bit, eh. I don’t know. I was drinking it.” You were drinking it? “Yeah. Who cares? Just see how it goes. Gotta explore, mate.”
ESPN Fantasy’s Jim McCormick, Kyle Soppe and Kevin Pelton discuss Paul George’s production: “George is converting just 25.8 percent of his attempts from 3-10 feet after converting 48.9 percent of such shots last season and sporting a career clip of 37.6 from this range. The same applies to shots from 10-16 feet; he’s hitting 29.4 percent this season compared to a career clip of 38.1 percent. This suggests George is likely due for a positive correction from this range. George has shot above 42.4 percent from the field for a full season just once over the past six seasons, so this current rate isn’t so alarming in that context.”
Adam Fromal (B/R) picks the most improved player on every team: “Steven Adams — The extra space created by Paul George and Carmelo Anthony joining the Oklahoma City Thunder has afforded Steven Adams more room to operate when he’s either attempting a post-up move or diving toward the hoop in the pick-and-roll game. Last year, he could muster only 1.09 points per possession as the roll man, which left him in the 64.2nd percentile. But in 2017-18, his rolling efforts have produced 1.27 points per possession (78.6th percentile), and those possessions are now accounting for a larger percentage of his offensive exploits. Increased touch around the basket, the patience to get defenders in the air and that extra breathing room have all proved beneficial.”
Around the League: Jahlil Okafor was traded to the Brooklyn Nets…. Kawhi Leonard is eyeing a return this Saturday…. The G-League may get a team Mexico City…. Gordon Hayward is nearly out of his walking boot…. The Rockets are now 8-0 with Chris Paul in the lineup.