Nick Gallo (okcthunder.com) previews tonight’s game against the Nuggets: “Defensively the Thunder must contend with the same type of playmaking it is wanting to generate itself. Jokic is an incredible creator for the Nuggets, with the ability to knock down jump shots from above the break, penetrate and finish off the dribble and also to find cutters and flaring shooters for buckets near the rim or behind the arc. The key for the Thunder is to be tied together to limit windows of opportunity for Denver to get easy baskets. “Just talking [and] communication,” said guard Terrance Ferguson. “Forcing them into tough shots and just some things like that and staying together, having each other’s back.”
Maddie Lee (Oklahoman) on Paul George being “questionable” against Denver: “George, 28, is listed as questionable for the Friday’s game against the Nuggets with left shoulder soreness. He has missed just four games this season, most recently sitting for three straight, from Feb. 28 through March 3, for right shoulder soreness. He has played 2,609 minutes this season, the most of any Thunder player and fifth most in the NBA.”
Current Western Conference standings: The Thunder can clinch a playoff spot with a win tonight vs the Nuggets.
Brad Botkin (CBS Sports) on the current playoff picture: “The Thunder have lost six of their last 10 but got big wins over Indiana and Toronto in two of their last three. For now, that has them in the No. 7 seed and our projections like them to stay there. OKC needs one more win or one Sacramento loss to clinch a playoff berth.
- Magic Number to clinch playoff spot: One
- Projected seed: No. 7
- SportsLine odds: 1.3 percent to get top-four seed
- Current first-round matchup: at Nuggets
- Tiebreaker: Own tiebreaker over Houston, Portland and Utah; already lost tiebreaker to Spurs; currently losing tiebreaker to Clippers”
Dan Favale (B/R) on first round match-ups fans most want to see: “Durant is almost three seasons removed from his time with the Thunder. People move on. He has two Finals MVPs and two championships. Westbrook has Paul George and an indelible standing within the Thunder organization. But, like, come on. Westbrook vs. anyone is must-see TV in the playoffs. Pitting him against Durant is a combustible cocktail—in a good way. They already have a history as opponents, and no matter how friendly or indifferent toward one another they are now, tensions won’t dissipate on the NBA’s most important stage. And as an added bonus, this matchup would feature Steven Adams’ groin vs. Draymond Green’s leg.”
Robert Flom (Blazer’s Edge) previews a potential Thunder/Blazers first round matchup: “The Thunder are much like the Jazz statistically, just slightly worse offensively and defensively. The Thunder have struggled of late, as Paul George has tailed off and Russell Westbrook has continued to misfire from all over the court. However, George and Westbrook could each be the best player in a Thunder-Blazers series, and Steven Adams will run amok with no Nurkic to slow him down. The Thunder are prone to cold spells (look at their efficiency), and the Blazers might have a chance if George and Westbrook have a couple off-games – the Thunder’s depth is not a strong suit. On the other hand, the Thunder would seem to have the defense and star-power to get a series win over a depleted Blazers team. Really, the Thunder are the most variable team in the Western Conference playoff picture, and that’s both good and bad.”
Zach Lowe (ESPN) on the Thunder’s commitment to their identity: “Oklahoma City gives up just 0.92 points per possession when it blitzes a pick-and-roll, one of the stingiest marks in the league, per Second Spectrum. The Thunder are not bleeding 3s; only 32 percent of enemy shots have come from deep, the 11th-lowest such share, per Cleaning The Glass. All coaches mull the merits of adjusting game-to-game against sticking to one identity, and mastering it. The Thunder know who they are. They are built to play a certain way, and they are good at it. They are even better when they have fresh legs, and they looked tired in that Memphis game. There are no back-to-backs in the playoffs. They did adjust some against Utah in last season’s first round, switching more. But they mostly corralled Ricky Rubio high on the floor instead of ducking picks, staying attached to shooters, and daring Rubio to beat them with jumpers. Also: Only seven teams give up more corner 3s as a portion of shot attempts, and only two a larger share of shots in the restricted area — suggesting there might be some cost to sending two to the ball so often. They also foul a lot. This is something to watch depending on postseason matchups.”
Erik Horne (Oklahoman) on Jerami Grant’s case for Most Improved Player: “The Thunder was in a haze against Indiana on Wednesday until Grant decided that was enough. Thaddeus Young wanted to try a baseline spin. Bojan Bogdanovic saw a chance to drive past Adams when the Thunder switched defenders. Grant was there each time, like Serge Ibaka used to be for Adams. “Same in terms of being a shot blocker, just meeting them at the rim,” Adams said of Grant after the Thunder’s 107-99 win against the Pacers. “Even his contests, it’s ridiculously tough to finish around him.” If the Thunder has had one consistent performer this season, it’s been Grant, who’s making a case for NBA’s Most Improved Player.”
Jimmy Butler is still adamant about the strength of Steven Adams:
Around the League: Giannis is dealing with ankle troubles in Milwaukee…. Thank you, Manu…. The Rockets blew out the Nuggets in Houston…. Austin Rivers thinks the Rockets can win a title…. 2,000 Slovenians showed up to watch Luka vs Dragic last night in Miami…. The Celtics gave a 2-year ban to a fan that racially attacked DeMarcus Cousins…. How the Lakers wasted the first year of LeBron…. Jordan Bell’s very awkward suspension.