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Friday Bolts – 3.10.17

Friday Bolts – 3.10.17

Zach Lowe of ESPN.com: “The Thunder outscore opponents by 2.9 points per 100

possessions with Westbrook on the floor — kind of a middling number, actually — and collapse into nothingness when he rests. Opponents have blitzed the Thunder by more than 11 points per 100 possessions with Westbrook sitting, a margin that would rank way, way, way below Brooklyn’s league-worst overall mark. That gap creates my favorite tense subplot of every Thunder game: How close can the Thunder hang while Westbrook reloads? There is an urgency for opponents, too: How much can ground can we make up?”

Bill Simmons of The Ringer: “The biggest problem with ball hog basketball: Eventually, everyone else atrophies. The supporting guys stop thinking independently; when they’re asked to step up, it’s difficult to flick on that “OK, I’m good!” switch. I’m fascinated by OKC’s offense when Westbrook rests — how Domantas Sabonis says to himself, “It’s my only chance to post up and try a jump hook!”, or Kanter gets to become an instant low-post beast, or Oladipo (who’s adjusted to Westbrook about as well as you can expect) creates a little slash-and-kick on his own. Of course they’re worse without Westbrook on the floor; playing with Westbrook is like being one of the kids in that SNL sketch where the parents chew the food for their kids. Hey Steven Adams — here comes some corn!”

My story from last night.

Colin McGowan of RealGM on Reggie Jackson: “This isn’t to tongue-cluck about the saga two years later—although Jackson clearly isn’t over it; he tweeted a smirking emoji when KD and Russ fell to the Warriors in Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals last season—so much as to remark that Jackson’s self-estimation hasn’t diminished in the meantime. He wanted to leave the Thunder because he thought he could be a star, but his time in Detroit has proven that he’s not. The basic conceit of the pick-and-roll-heavy offense Stan Van Gundy likes to run is that if his point guard gets a half-step on the defense, he’ll be able to hurt them. Jackson has the quickness to create space for himself, but he lacks the polish to make that space matter. He doesn’t have Kyrie Irving’s finesse, nor Kyle Lowry’s midrange game, nor John Wall’s court vision, nor Westbrook’s terrifying physicality. He’s excellent at nothing and deficient enough as a shooter that good defenses can smother him.”

Brett Dawson: “It was a major moment for Sabonis — who points out that he dunked on the Spurs’ David Lee in January — on what could have been a difficult night. At Thursday’s shootaround, he was informed he’d be out of the starting lineup for the first time this season. Coach Billy Donovan opted to start Taj Gibson, acquired last month in a trade with the Bulls, in Sabonis’ place. The move had seemed inevitable, and Donovan pulled the trigger before Thursday’s game at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Donovan did it, he said, in large part to pair Gibson with starting center Steven Adams in the starting frontcourt and Sabonis with Enes Kanter in the second unit.”

Erik Horne: “For the first time this season, the Thunder had a starting lineup change that had nothing to do with an injury. Taj Gibson in. Domantas Sabonis to the bench. What better time to try fresh tactics? The Thunder had lost four consecutive games, including a Tuesday loss to Portland in which OKC didn’t have its usual rebounding dominance. The Spurs were coming off the second night of a back-to-back. They’d left starting point guard Tony Parker out of the active roster, as well as sixth man Manu Ginobili.”

Per Elias: “Russell Westbrook led all players with 23 points, 13 rebounds, and 13 assists in the Thunder’s 102–92 home win over the Spurs. It was Westbrook’s first career triple-double against San Antonio. Entering Thursday, he’d faced the Spurs 28 times in the regular season and another 18 in the playoffs. Against all other teams, Westbrook has 67 triple-doubles in 623 regular-season games, and five more in 64 playoff contests. Westbrook’s triple-double was the fourth against San Antonio in 2016–17 – James Harden has two and Ricky Rubio has one. That’s the highest total against the Spurs in any of Gregg Popovich’s 21 seasons as the team’s head coach.”