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Monday Bolts: 1.14.19

Royce Young (ESPN) on Saturday’s win over the Spurs in OKC: “Schroder scored 19 points in the Thunder’s 122-112 win over the Spurs — all in the second half — and did so in the kind of flurry that takes over a game and swings it dramatically in one direction. His first bucket came with 2:47 left in the third, a patented stutter-step floater in the paint over a leaping Spurs big. A minute later, he pulled confidently from the wing, splashing a 3. A minute after that, he knifed to the rim, took some contact and finished a tough layup. He slapped the floor in frustration, said something to the official and was dinged with a technical. It was just collateral damage to keep the motor running hot. He capped the quarter with a driving layup at the buzzer, helping turn a nine-point halftime deficit to a six-point lead heading to the fourth.”

The 48: Spurs @ Thunder

ESPN on the Thunder retiring Nick Collison’s jersey on March 20: “Nick Collison’s No. 4 will be the first number retired by the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Thunder announced Saturday that they’ll retire Collison’s jersey in a ceremony on March 20. “I am thrilled that Nick Collison will be the first Thunder player to have their number retired in Oklahoma City,” Thunder chairman Clayton I. Bennett said. “He has cemented himself as part of the fabric of this community and our organization by setting an example of commitment, hard work and authenticity. Congratulations, Nick.”

Cody Taylor (Thunder Wire) with reaction to the Collison news: “With the news that his number will be retired, San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich called the move ‘classy’ by the Thunder to honor Collison after his service. While Popovich was certainly happy for Collison, several players around the league took to Twitter to offer their support and appreciation for the Thunder and Collison.”

Zach Buckley (B/R) with every team’s most untouchable player at the trade deadline: Russell Westbrook — He has numbed us to statistical excellence; we went from expecting to never see a triple-double average to yawning as he posts his third straight. Plus, his relentless competitive drive embodies this small-market organization that has survived the defection of Kevin Durant and, due in large part to Westbrook, convinced George, a Southern California native, to choose the Sooner State over a return to Hollywood. “A lot of it was I liked our chemistry, I liked what he brings to the table, I liked his competitiveness and I loved him as a teammate, as a friend, as a brother, as a dude in the locker room,” George told ESPN The Magazine‘s Royce Young. “He had a lot to do with me coming back here. A lot of it,” George says now of Westbrook’s impact on his decision to stay, “was I liked our chemistry, I liked what he brings to the table, I liked his competitiveness and I loved him as a teammate, as a friend, as a brother, as a dude in the locker room. He had a lot to do with me coming back here.”

Brett Dawson (Athletic) on the Thunder at the halfway point of the 2018-19 season: “No team scoring as little this season as the Thunder — 107.6 points per 100 possessions — has won as much. OKC is 18th in the NBA in offensive rating, and its 25 wins are the most among the league’s bottom 13 in that category. The schedule gets tougher from here — more on that later — and it would be a big boost if OKC could find a new offensive wrinkle. At first glance, the biggest issue is Oklahoma City’s perimeter shooting. The Thunder are last in the NBA in 3-point shooting percentage (32.6) and 25th in 3-point makes (9.8 per game). The obvious solution, then, is to find a new 3-point threat. But that figures to be challenging. The trade market is unlikely to feature a supply of shooters to match the demand as teams eye perimeter upgrades.”

Erik Horne & Maddie Lee (Oklahoman) grade the Thunder players at the season’s midway mark: “Dennis Schroder: B. An instant upgrade over Felton with the second unit and an additional playmaker alongside Westbrook and George. Stepped in well in Westbrook’s eight missed games. Has wavered between big moments and prolonged slumps on both ends, but fits Thunder’s up-tempo style (and salary cap) more than Anthony.”

ESPN has the Thunder sixth in their latest power rankings: “The Thunder and Spurs turned in a 1980s-style, high-scoring home-and-home last week, splitting the games, with the Thunder outscoring the Spurs 269-266 in two classics. There is some concern that the vaunted Thunder defense gave up 154 points to the Spurs in one game, even in double-overtime, but their effort to bounce back and win the sequel by 10 points over the hot Spurs helped settle things back down.”

Marc Stein (NY Times) has the Thunder fifth in his power rankings: “Remember the Thunder’s 0-4 start? Neither do we. Despite the season-long absence of the ace defender Andre Roberson, Oklahoma City leads the league in defensive rating (allowing just 102.9 points per 100 possessions) and specializes in the physical style that has troubled Golden State in the past. The Thunder have undoubtedly benefited from what ranks as the league’s second-easiest schedule to date, but you would struggle to find a star duo meshing better than Russell Westbrook and Paul George.”

Around the League: James Harden went 1-for-17 from three last night…. The Warriors think Luka Doncic looks like an All-Star…. JJ Barea tore his Achilles…. The Lakers are bad without LeBron…. Robin Lopez prefers the Warriors if he’s bought-out in Chicago…. New roles for misused talents…. How Trae Young became the NBA’s most exciting rookie.