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Friday Bolts: 3.16.18

Friday Bolts: 3.16.18

Nick Gallo previews tonight’s game against the Clippers: “On Thursday in preparation for the Clippers, the Thunder watched film, broke down defensive concepts, went through live contact on defense and then went through half-court offense and special situations, such as end-of-game and out-of-bounds plays. In the midst of a four-game win streak and now at 12 games above .500, the Thunder has made significant progress to thwart the adversity that has come its way. But that doesn’t mean the pursuit of improvement comes to a halt at all. “Our guys have made some really, really good, positive improvements, and you’re always fighting for that consistency because of the number of games that you’re playing,” Donovan noted. But I feel like we’ve improved and we’ve gotten better.”

Erik Horne with an injury update on Paul George and Steven Adams: “Adams sat out of the Thunder’s 119-107 win against Atlanta on Tuesday with a left hip contusion he suffered against Sacramento on Monday. George picked up a groin injury in the third quarter Tuesday, but said after the win in Atlanta he felt like he’d be ready to play Friday. Both Adams and George participated in non-contact portions of the practice and will be re-evaluated at shootaround on Friday.”

Zach Lowe (ESPN) with 10 things he likes/doesn’t like: “Jerami Grant is an important part of a Thunder bench that has held up surprisingly well at times given the, umm, talent involved. Oklahoma City is net-neutral — literally, tied — in 353 minutes they have played without any of Westbrook, Anthony and George, per NBA.com. (Note to Billy Donovan: This remains a bad idea.) George serves as the lone starter propping up Westbrook-less second units, and since Jan. 1, those lineups with Grant and George have outscored opponents by about a point per 100 possessions — a huge victory, given how bad the Thunder had been without Westbrook. Grant was one of the few guys who made sense for a contract extension before the season, but the two sides don’t appear to have gotten close. Grant will be an unrestricted free agent this summer. He is playing well at the right time.”

Russ Bengston (Complex) put Russell Westbrook vs Everybody on his list of top NBA rivalries: “Russell Westbrook’s rage is as boundless as his athleticism, and combined the two have driven him to staggering heights. Last season, he became the first player in over 50 years to average a triple-double. This season, with the additions of Carmelo Anthony and Paul George, he’s averaging 25.3 points, a league-leading 10.2 assists, and 9.6 rebounds per game. His style has not changed, his demeanor has not wavered. Westbrook approaches both games and interviews the same way, turning all perceived slights into fuel, and perceiving just about anything as a slight. And if you thought last year’s MVP would satisfy him in some life-changing way, well, think again.”

Brett Dawson looks at the Western Conference playoff picture: “With Minnesota off until Saturday, the Thunder can add to its lead on the No. 4 seed with a win against L.A., playing on the second night of a back-to-back.”

Erik Horne on Carmelo Anthony catching fire from downtown: “Since the rest day against Portland, Anthony is leading the Thunder in 3-point percentage (47.4) and is third in the NBA in 3-pointers made (18). Aside from a 0-of-3 game against the Spurs, Anthony has made three or more 3-pointers in four of the five games since sitting out against the Blazers.”

Grant Hughes (B/R) has OKC ninth in his latest power rankings: “Undefeated this week and winners in seven of their last nine games, the Oklahoma City Thunder are mopping up against beatable competition. They still haven’t downed a playoff team since knocking off the Warriors back on Feb. 6, but there’s something to be said for taking care of business. Steven Adams’ hip injury could make success against pushovers tougher, though. OKC’s big man tweaked an ankle Saturday, and a sore hip kept him out of action against Atlanta on Tuesday. The Thunder are a plus-5.4 when Adams is on the floor but a minus-1.1 when he’s off, which is no surprise.”

Jessica Bruno (KFOR) on Russell Westbrook opening another OKC reading room: “On Thursday morning, Westbrook opened a Russell’s Reading Room at Thelma R. Parks Elementary School. After announcing 29 reading rooms in Oklahoma City and Los Angeles, Westbrook opened his 30th Russell’s Reading Room and also announced the opening of nine additional new reading rooms in Oklahoma. “I think it’s very, very important to be able to learn about the history, learn about other things in the world as well and I think through books and education is a great, great tool to be able to do that,” he said. “Just trying to continue to expand, obviously here in Oklahoma City and hopefully other places as well.”

Around the League: Ben Simmons joined an elite triple-double club…. Doc Rivers called officiating a “complete joke”…. Kevin Durant was added to the Warriors’ growing injury list…. The Blazers have won 11 in a row…. Fixing ESPN’s stats problem.