4 min read

Friday Bolts: 3.22.19

Friday Bolts: 3.22.19

Nick Gallo (okcthunder.com) previews tonight’s game in Toronto: “A few steps slow in transition defense. In the wrong position defensively. Playing in a crowd on offense. On each possession, the small mistakes can be a killer. As the Thunder saw on Wednesday night, the final margin in most NBA games is so narrow, that one or two possessions can shape the whole context of the game, and certainly determine the difference between a win and a loss. Every trip down court matters, but for the Thunder in its 123-114 overtime loss to the Toronto Raptors on Wednesday, the urgency that propelled them to an inspiring fourth quarter comeback wasn’t there in the first quarter, when it allowed 6 made three-pointers and 39 points. In the rematch up in Toronto on Friday, that type of open to a game will be much, much harder to remedy. “We’ve just got to get out to a better start, that’s it,” said forward Paul George. “We close out well, we just put ourselves behind a lot of times. Just a better start.”

AP report on Kyle Lowry being out again tonight in Toronto: “The Toronto Raptors say all-star guard Kyle Lowry will miss a second straight game with a sprained right ankle when the Oklahoma City Thunder visit Soctiabank Arena on Friday night. The team made the announcement Thursday on Twitter. Lowry was injured in Toronto’s 128-92 win over the Knicks on Monday night when New York rookie center Mitchell Robinson fell on Lowry’s ankle. Lowry, who had just returned after missing two games with a left ankle injury, had to be helped to the locker room.”

Current Western Conference standings:

via ESPN

Maddie Lee (Oklahoman) on the Thunder being stumped at the free throw line: “Over the last three games, the Thunder shot 62 percent from the free throw line, the worst in the league by almost 10 percentage points. But in the past two, both close games, OKC shot 80 percent from the charity stripe in the fourth quarter. “You try to create games and situations and environments inside practices and shootarounds where they’re having to shoot free throws,” Thunder coach Billy Donovan said. “We do that every single day. We do a competitive game from the free throw line. We try to do that at every shootaround.” The Thunder tends to shoot free throws well in pressure situations. When the pressure was off Wednesday, however, OKC bounced free throw after free throw off the rim.”

Erik Horne (Oklahoman) on the increasing level of defensive pressure being put on Paul George: “While Westbrook’s post-All-Star break stretch of efficient shooting hasn’t correlated to across-the-board offensive success, Dennis Schroder and Terrance Ferguson have fallen off a cliff. George’s answer to double teams and traps being deployed on him is correct: Find shooters. But Ferguson and Schroder are shooting 36.4 and 35.1 percent, respectively, since the All-Star break. Teams aren’t bothering to close out hard to them, either, which presents more issues for the Thunder’s most efficient scorer. “Yeah, I think that’s definitely happening,” coach Billy Donovan said after the Thunder’s 123-114 loss Wednesday night to Toronto. “They were very, very aggressive with him, and he kept throwing the ball to our big guys, and our big guys were making the next pass and we were getting really, really good looks.” George said: “I can beat my guy, but there’s always just a guy there behind him just there waiting for my drive. A lot of times I’m forced to kick the ball out, forced to move it just because that’s the right play.”

Zach Harper (Athletic) still has Paul George third in his MVP race: “In compiling the MVP rankings this week, I thought about the idea of moving George into fourth and trying to put Embiid in the top 3. As I kept trying to dissect it, I was trying to not be wooed by the recent struggles of the Thunder while the Sixers appear to surge. But as I look at the entirety of the NBA season, George’s play has just been so dynamic. There have been two players in NBA history to average at least 28 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists, and 2 steals in a season. PG13 is doing that right now, and I don’t think he’s likely to fall below any of those criteria. The other player was Michael Jordan in 1988-89. Even as I wanted to pump up Embiid this week, George has been so good that I had to know my limitations.”

Zach Buckley (B/R) with every team’s best offseason trade offer for Anthony Davis: “Trade Package: Steven Adams, Terrance Ferguson, Hamidou Diallo, two future second-round picks. Adams offers rock-solid contributions as a screener, rebounder and paint protector. Ferguson is rounding into three-and-D form. Diallo’s energy and explosiveness help him perk up a game. But there’s zero star power in this package.”

Cody Taylor (Thunder Wire) with a look at some of the Thunder roster’s finest NCAA Tournament moments: “It’s hard to believe that it has been 14 years since Felton helped lead the Tar Heels to a national championship over Illinois. Felton proved to be a top point guard during that run after averaging 13.7 points, 6.8 assists 5.8 rebounds and 1.2 steals en route to the national championship. Felton recorded a pair of 17-point efforts during that run and hit some clutch shots and had a crucial steal late for North Carolina against Illinois to seal the win. He became the fifth overall pick of the Charlotte Bobcats that year.”

Around the League: It’s Jimmer Time in the desert…. D-Rose will sit the rest of the season…. Marcus Smart got a $50k fine for shoving Joel Embiid…. Klay Thompson thinks fans and media are fickle…. KD’s childhood friend was murdered in Atlanta…. 10 things Zach Lowe likes/doesn’t like…. Recapping last night’s NBA action…. Ja Morant has officially arrived.