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Friday Bolts: 2.2.18

Friday Bolts: 2.2.18

Nick Gallo recaps last night’s loss in Denver: “After giving up 40, 32 and 32 points in the first three periods, the Thunder’s defense suddenly tightened up in the fourth quarter behind a grimy, scrappy effort by the second unit and scintillating performances by Paul George and Russell Westbrook down the stretch. With just 1.4 seconds left in regulation, the Thunder had allowed just 20 fourth quarter points. On an inbounds play, Nuggets guard Gary Harris relocated up to the right slot from the deep corner, and Nikola Jokic fired a rocket all the way across court, leading to the spot where Harris was headed. Despite a potential travel and five second call on Jokic and a possible offensive foul as Jerami Grant crashed to the ground in the lane, the ball found its way to Harris and then into the bottom of the net as the Thunder fell 127-124.”

Colin Ward-Henninger (CBS Sports) on why Nikola Jokic’s clutch inbound pass should not have counted: “Jokic clearly takes multiple side-steps before inbounding the ball, which should have resulted in a traveling violation (the inbounder has to remain stationary). Also, Jokic took more than five seconds to pass the ball. Go ahead and get out your stopwatch and time the play from when Jokic receives the ball to when it leaves his hands. It’s absolutely not fewer than five seconds.”

Russell Westbrook shoved a fan after the game: “Oklahoma City Thunder star Russell Westbrook shoved a fan who stepped onto the court and came face-to-face with him in the moments after the Nuggets’ buzzer-beating, 127-124 victory Thursday night in Denver. Video of the confrontation showed the man walking onto the court and screaming in Westbrook’s face as the Nuggets and fans at the Pepsi Center celebrated the wild aftermath of Gary Harris’ winning 3-pointer. Westbrook was walking off the court when the fan got in front of him. Westbrook pushed the fan in the shoulder with his left hand, before a referee and an arena employee intervened and motioned for the fan to leave the court.”

Matt Bonesteel (WaPo) on why the NBA shouldn’t discipline Westbrook for the shove: “It’s hard to fault Westbrook here, because fans shouldn’t be on the court at all — it’s prohibited by the league’s fan code of conduct — much less woofing in players’ faces. “You gotta be able to protect the players, man,” Westbrook said afterward, per ESPN. “The fans are obviously there to enjoy the game, but they can’t come onto the floor. That’s totally unacceptable. They’ll look at it and figure out what’s the best way to deal with it, but to me, that’s just totally unacceptable.”

Michael Sykes (SB Nation) on Paul George flashing his full talent last night in Denver: “The Thunder were down by as many as 20 points against the Nuggets who were raining threes all over the place. But Denver saw George at his best on Thursday night. He made plays everywhere, including the big three-point shot that nearly sent the game into overtime before the Nuggets snatched hope away with a Gary Harris three. George isn’t the best player in Oklahoma City, and there really isn’t any debating that. But don’t get it twisted — George is still a good player and, at his peak, can be a top-10 player in the world.”

Paul George will participate in the Three-Point contest at All-Star weekend: “The five-time All-Star will be joined by Wizards guard Bradley Beal, Suns guard Devin Booker, Heat guard Wayne Ellington, Rockets guard Eric Gordon, Clippers forward Tobias Harris, Raptors guard Kyle Lowry and Warriors guard Klay Thompson. George is shooting a career-high 42.3 percent from beyond the arc this season and ranks fifth among all NBA players in three-pointers made (150) while averaging 21.3 points, 5.5 rebounds, 2.9 assists and a league-leading 2.17 steals per game. The 32nd JBL Three-Point Contest is part of State Farm® All-Star Saturday Night, which will air on TNT and ESPN Radio at 8 p.m. ET. All-Star Saturday Night also includes the Taco Bell Skills Challenge and Verizon Slam Dunk.”

Erik Horne studies Paul George’s devastating crossover dribble: “For all of his crossover moves, George is on pace to have his fewest lost ball turnovers since the 2012-13 season, per basketball-reference.com. Some of that can be attributed to George taking 46.2 percent of his shots without dribbling, per NBA.com, his second-highest percentage in five years of tracking. Yet, George is still a high-volume dribbler at his position, 13th out of 111 qualified forwards in average dribbles per touch (2.14), per Second Spectrum data. George’s feet also allow him that critical extra space on corner 3-pointers, where he’s shooting 46.1 percent this season. In a Dec. 11 Thunder loss, George drove baseline on Jeremy Lamb, pulled his dribble behind his back, then blindly took a stretching step behind the 3-pointer line with no worry about going out of bounds. Lamb was on the floor.”

Dan Favale (B/R) on dark-horse trade targets for the NBA’s biggest buyers: Marco Bellinelli and Joe Harris are names linked to OKC here.

The Bird Writes (Pelicans blog) previews tonight’s Thunder/Pelicans match-up: “With likely no Mirotic and Omer Asik, Tony Allen and Jameer Nelson traded to the Chicago Bulls, the Pelicans will be eight strong. Only two-way contract player Charles Cooke will be sitting in the wings. Barring some late Greg Monroe signing miracle, the Pelicans big men rotation will consist of Anthony Davis, Cheick Diallo and Dante Cunningham. The only thing tilted in New Orleans favor may be the Thunder’s low energy levels. OKC might be fatigued, both from a physical and mental standpoint, as they’ll be asked to play on the second night of a back-to-back and for the fifth time in the last seven days. However, when’s the last time you remember Russell Westbrook coasting through a game at half speed?”

Around the League: Kevin Love will avoid surgery and be out 8 weeks…. Blake Griffin made a successful debut in Detroit…. Nikola Mirotic was traded to the Pelicans…. Victor Oladipo is in the field for the dunk contest…. Goran Dragic will replace Kevin Love in the All-Star Game…. KD called the Lebron-to-the-Warriors rumors “bullsh*t.