4 min read

Friday Bolts: 3.30.18

Nick Gallo recaps last night’s loss to the Spurs: “Every Thunder run was parried. Every chance there was to break away got stopped short by the little things, and ultimately that allowed the San Antonio Spurs to hang around a bit too long. After taking control in the third quarter with stout defense, the Thunder’s offense stalled in the final frame and the Spurs held on down the stretch. The final result was a 103-99 loss for the Thunder, dropping Oklahoma City to 44-32 on the season, and into 5th place due to tiebreakers with the Spurs. “We played a good game overall, both sides of the ball, made it tough for them to make some shots,” Westbrook said. “We put ourselves in position to win.”

Royce Young on Russell Westbrook’s forgettable fourth quarter in San Antonio: “Russell Westbrook crossed midcourt, Paul George flanking him on the wing, the Oklahoma City Thunder down three with 18 seconds left. It was painstakingly obvious as to what was coming next; it was just a matter of how tough, how far and if this upcoming 3-point attempt went in or not. Westbrook took a dribble to cut back to his left, clearing enough space from Patty Mills to launch. Westbrook knew it the second it left his hand, chasing after his shot as it missed everything and hit the baseline. Westbrook continued running, leaning onto the basket stanchion, slapping the padding. The San Antonio Spurs inbounded, hit some free throws, Paul George hit a 3, the Spurs hit some more free throws and that was it, a 103-99 loss as San Antonio seized control of the 4-seed in the Western Conference playoffs.”

Berry Tramel on Russell Westbrook and the frustration of no fourth quarter offense: “In the final quarter, Carmelo Anthony did not get a shot. George got just three. Westbrook got eight, making only two, and it wasn’t like the offense revolved around Westbrook. Westbrook flung up two air balls on 3-point shots, and I keep making this point. Those not-good 3-pointers do not produce the bad offense. The bad offense produces those not-good 3-point shots. Westbrook starts launching out of frustration. Frustration with the offense. Frustration with himself. Westbrook’s drives to the basket were repeatedly turned away, either with missed shots or with turnovers (he had seven for the game).”

Haley O’Shaughnessy (Ringer) on the Thunder wasting a good Paul George effort: “The stretch after the All-Star break has not been kind to Paul George. Oklahoma City went 11-5 during that time (before Thursday’s 103-99 loss to the Spurs), but George had dipped far below his norm. The Thunder wing shot 37.5 percent and scored 18.5 points per game over that stint compared to 44.9 percent and 22.5 points up until the break. George was vibing on Thursday. He duped Dejounte Murray at the perimeter to draw three foul shots with 1:07 left in the game. PG made them all then sunk a 3 to bring it within two with 8.7 to go. It was George’s 20th and final shot of the game. (Alex Abrines took OKC’s last-ditch heave from 33 feet out.) This season, when George has attempted 21 or more field goals, the Thunder are 7-3—yet he hasn’t taken that many shots in any of the 17 games since All-Star.”

Cody Taylor (USA Today) on Andre Roberson traveling with the team: “For the first time since suffering a season-ending injury in January, Andre Roberson is traveling with the Thunder on the road. Of course, Roberson is out for the season and will not suit up again this season after rupturing his patellar tendon, but it is a positive sign for his rehabilitation that he is traveling with the Thunder. Roberson’s appearance on the Thunder bench in San Antonio marks a rare public appearance. He spoke with reporters for the first time following the injury earlier this month, but hasn’t talked publicly since then.”

Micah Adams (ESPN) on a potential Thunder/Warriors match-up in the first round: “Although the Thunder sit fifth in the West, they also have the NBA’s second-hardest remaining schedule, which means a slide to No. 7 in the clustered West isn’t out of the question. They’ve already beaten the Warriors twice this season, and Tuesday they can become the first team to knock the champs off three times in one regular season during the Golden State’s run under Steve Kerr. Watch even a few minutes of Thunder-Warriors games and it’s apparent Oklahoma City is not scared. OKC is 6-6 as an underdog this year — best among West teams — and as good a bet as anyone to knock off a heavy favorite early.”

Grant Hughes (B/R) has OKC seventh in his latest power rankings: “In 2016-17, the Thunder owned a plus-19.9 clutch net rating (truly anomalous for a team whose overall net rating was minus-0.2) and a 26-16 record in games that reached close-and-late status. Westbrook used an incomprehensible 62.3 percent of the team’s possessions, almost literally scoring or assisting on every late-game bucket, and the defense clamped down to the tune of a 96.8 defensive rating. This season, OKC is a plus-1.2 in the clutch, and Westbrook is using fewer possessions while also scoring less efficiently. Oklahoma City’s win-loss totals are now lining up more appropriately with its point differential, which was bound to happen.”

Fox Sports previews tonight’s Thunder/Nuggets match-up: “Two teams in desperate need of a win meet Friday night at Chesapeake Energy Arena. For the Oklahoma City Thunder (44-32), the desperation is about hanging on to playoff positioning during a rough stretch of the schedule after losing two consecutive games to drop into a tie for fourth in the Western Conference. For the Denver Nuggets (41-35), the situation is far more severe. The Nuggets are two games behind Utah for the eighth and final playoff spot in the conference with only seven games remaining.”

Around the League: The Rockets locked up the West’s number one seed…. KD was ejected for the fifth time this season…. Joel Embiid has an orbital fracture and a concussion…. Blake Griffin will have an MRI on his ankle…. 10 things that Zach Lowe likes/doesn’t like.