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Friday Bolts: 3.9.18

Friday Bolts: 3.9.18

Nick Gallo recaps last night’s win over Phoenix: “The third quarter is when the Thunder really blew this game open, racking up a whopping 39 points on 14-for-21 shooting behind perfect 5-for-5 shooting by Westbrook as the Thunder’s point guard played all 12 minutes. He ensured that he didn’t need to return in the fourth quarter. By scoring 13 of his 27 total points (he was an efficient 11-for-14 from the floor), Westbrook helped get the offense into high gear through his downhill attacks to the paint. The All-Star point guard also got teammates like Brewer involved on backdoor cuts behind the defense, found Steven Adams (16 points, 7-for-8 shooting) in the lane for hook shots and sprayed the ball to Paul George and Carmelo Anthony (11 points on 3 made three-pointers) for catch-and-shoot jumpers. For the game, Westbrook added 9 assists and 8 rebounds, with just 2 turnovers.”

Royce Young on Corey Brewer sparking the easiest Thunder win in weeks: “There was something a little different about the Oklahoma City Thunder on Thursday, and it goes deeper than just the tangible thing that they had a new starting shooting guard. Corey Brewer made his first start for the Thunder, taking the place of Josh Huestis, who had occupied the spot the last seven games. The Thunder stomped the Phoenix Suns 115-87. While Brewer stepped in for Huestis, he’s really stepping in for Andre Roberson, who was lost for the season on Jan. 27. Brewer was signed last week after being bought out by the Los Angeles Lakers. The Thunder were 8-9 entering this game since Roberson’s injury, and after posting a top-five defensive rating, were allowing 109.2 points per 100 possessions (it would rank 27th in the league over the course of the full season) in that span.”

Erik Horne on Russell Westbrook’s efficiency against the Suns: “The approach yielded a hyper-efficient night from Westbrook: 27 points, eight rebounds, nine assists. Westbrook is a perfectionist, apologizing to Anthony for not hitting him in stride and allowing him to step into a 3-point attempt in transition. He’s also fully aware of the statistics. Westbrook went into triple-double mode with the Thunder ahead by as many as 22 in the third quarter, overpassing at times and barreling in for rebounds. He knows how its goes. He wasn’t likely to play in the fourth quarter with the Thunder running away. It’s why Westbrook’s only two turnovers came in the last 54 seconds of the third quarter. Otherwise, the Thunder point guard pitched a perfect game.”

Moke Hamilton (USA Today) on Brewer saying Westbrook’s game is “perfect” for him: “If the one game is any indication of what Brewer will bring to Billy Donovan’s team, Brewer might be the missing ingredient. After the Thunder’s blowout win over the Suns, he provided his thoughts. “I think it’s perfect for me,” Brewer said of his adjustment to playing with the speedy Russell Westbrook. I love it, cus that’s what I do. I’m running right with him. It makes it easy on both of us, cus I run with him, he runs, and one of us is gonna get a layup.” To Brewer’s point, on Thursday, the Thunder outscored the Suns in fast break points, 27-6.”

Grant Hughes (B/R) has OKC 12th in his latest power rankings: “Since drubbing the Warriors on Feb. 6, the Thunder haven’t beaten a playoff team (or the Lakers, who have basically played like one for the season’s second half). OKC is still treading water by knocking off tankers and generally inferior competition, but with the West race so tight, it’s starting to feel like it’ll take more than that for these guys to survive. The Houston Rockets are in a different class altogether, but it was still illuminating to watch their offensive execution deconstruct the Thunder on Tuesday—particularly as OKC tried to fight back with shoddy structure and porous defense.”

Ben Cohen (WSJ) on the Thunder’s biggest fan in Japan: “Nanae Yamano, a 43-year-old stay-at-home mother in the Tokyo suburbs, knew nothing about the NBA. Then she watched Russell Westbrook. Now even the Thunder players know who she is.”

Trevor Lane (Lakers Nation) on recruitment billboards for Paul George in LA: “Billboards have already gone up attempting to woo LeBron James in Los Angeles, following suit with what was done by a Philadelphia 76ers fan in the Cleveland area. The Lakers fan behind the Los Angeles movement, Jacob Emrani, told Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN he has tentative plans for billboards to recruit George as well. “This is a first. If this goes well, I’m planning to do the same thing for Paul George sometime down the road,” Emrani said.”

Dan Favale (B/R) on the decline Carmelo Anthony will face next season: “His efficiency shouldn’t be dipping in a lower-volume capacity. The Thunder’s point differential shouldn’t improve by more than six points per 100 possessions when George and Westbrook play without him. His bread-and-butter shot, the mid-range jumper, shouldn’t play like a non-weapon. Perhaps Anthony can still be the face of a quality offense. Though Melo-plus-bench units have been used sparingly in Oklahoma City, they’re a plus-37 in under 85 minutes. But what exactly does that imply? What if the Thunder miss the playoffs? Does he get relegated to the bench? Has playing in a smaller market like Oklahoma City unlocked his inner ring-chaser? Might he exercise his early-termination option, leave a pile of money on the table and follow LeBron James wherever he goes this summer, as a second-unit hub or ceremonial starter?”

Andrew Sharp (SI) on the year of stress in the Western Conference: “Or the Thunder. They’ll probably make the playoffs—Denver’s recent slide helps—but what does this team become if Paul George leaves this summer? Andre Roberson’s injury has hurt them worse than anyone could have imagined, and suddenly the all-in bet on one year of George is becoming a more sobering proposition. Next year: Steven Adams will still be very good, but he’s not good enough to play credible sidekick to Westbrook. Carmelo Anthony will be opting into the final year of his deal at $28 million. The luxury tax will make it very difficult to add additional pieces. And Westbrook’s game is already aging poorly, a year before his $205 million contract extension kicks in. Even if George returns, the West will be an uphill battle. If he leaves, it begins to look impossible.”

Around the League: Steph Curry hurt his ankle and won’t travel with the Warriors…. KD sparked a fourth quarter comeback against the Spurs…. Chatting with Ben Falk — the smartest basketball mind outside the NBA…. How the Hawks are innovating despite a losing season…. Zach Lowe’s 10 things he likes/doesn’t like.