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Monday Bolts: 1.21.19

Nick Gallo (okcthunder.com) previews today’s 11:30 AM CST match-up with the New York Knicks: “Every time that the Thunder steps on the floor, there’s a level of pride that swells up to help the team deliver its best, representing the “Oklahoma City” printed on the front of the jersey. For nearly the entire time the team has been in Oklahoma, it has had the honor to play on Christmas Day, and the team has had countless opportunities on national television. But on Monday afternoon there will be a different kind of pride as the Thunder heads to Madison Square Garden to take on the New York Knicks on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. “It is a blessing man,” said Russell Westbrook. “To play on a special day, a special man that changed the world forever that we live in is an unbelievable honor. It is a blessing. I am definitely honored to be able to do that. Especially doing something I love to do.”

The 48: OKC 117, PHI 115 on Saturday afternoon

Royce Young (ESPN) on Paul George’s game-winner on Saturday in Philadelphia: “There was something emblematic about George’s shot. It came with Westbrook on the bench, so it was up to him. George has risen to stand as Westbrook’s peer in OKC, and though there’s no tug-of-war about whose team it is or anything like that, George is asserting himself as the team’s best player. Against the Lakers, he didn’t take a shot in the fourth quarter — Westbrook went 1-of-8 — and finally got a look a couple of minutes into overtime. Westbrook’s ruthless closing ability has been well chronicled, but he has lacked the same sharp crunch-time edge this season. There’s a willingness, even an eagerness to defer to George, but Westbrook is still a star of significant luminosity with an unwavering self-belief. It’s a balance, and one that’s not always easy to manage. But the runway was cleared Saturday, and George answered the call.”

Tim Bontemps (ESPN) on the latest drama between Russell Westbrook and Joel Embiid: “Not only did the Thunder emerge with a heart-stopping 117-115 victoryin front of a sellout crowd at Wells Fargo Center, but Westbrook and Embiid found yet another way for their personal rivalry to continue, thanks to Westbrook taking exception to a foul by Embiid with 1:46 remaining in the fourth quarter. “I don’t think he just landed on me,” said Westbrook, who 21 had points, 10 rebounds and six assists before fouling out late in the fourth quarter. “He had a little extra to it. But it’s OK.” Then, when a reporter followed up by asking if he and Embiid were “cool,” Westbrook responded, “F— no!” When asked to elaborate, Westbrook only said, “Go home, bro.”

Maddie Lee (Oklahoman) on the Thunder’s recent 3-point defense: “But keeping the 76ers to 34.4 percent from beyond the arc in the Thunder’s 117-115 win was enough for Donovan to say he was happy with his team’s defense. “We really worked today,” Donovan said after the game. “We did not do a great job in the first half at the 3-point line. We were OK. I thought in the third quarter we were really good limiting their number of attempts. I’ll look at the numbers, but I thought our effort was really good for the most part.” The numbers supported Donovan’s evaluation. The Sixers found a rhythm at the 3-point line in the second quarter, shooting 6-of-15 (40 percent) from beyond the arc in that period. But Philadelphia made just three more 3-pointers for the rest of the game. Landry Shamet, who sank all three of his 3-point attempts in the second quarter, didn’t take another shot from deep.”

Dane Delgado (NBC Sports) on the anime community rallying together to vote Steven Adams into the All-Star Game: “There’s been a lot of clever NBA All-Star marketing over the years. Portland Trail Blazers guard CJ McCollum did a “Napoleon Dynamite”-themed video for his buddy Damian Lillard this season. The Toronto Raptors made a faux-vintage action figure ad for Kawhi Leonard. Now it appears that anime website Crunchyroll is trying to get “One Piece” fans to vote for Oklahoma City Thunder big man Steven Adams. Adams is a fan of anime, and has professed his admiration for the show “One Piece” before. Adams made mention about how he was watching the show instead of Kevin Durant‘s debut with the Golden State Warriors a while back. In turn, Crunchyroll — a streaming site — made a video trying to get people to vote for Adams in the NBA fan vote.”

Kirk Goldsberry (ESPN) on why Paul George is the most disruptive force in the NBA: “George is the prototype wing defender for today’s pick-and-roll obsessed NBA. He’s a Swiss Army knife athletic enough to wrangle over screens, but versatile enough to switch assignments, too. And he’s willing enough to burn calories and do his job on defense. In a league that features many one-way superstars, including some with big, bushy beards, George stands apart as he excels in the inglorious art of defense. He lets the Thunder’s coaches get creative and flexible with their tactics against the league’s most dangerous scorers. George is the Thunder’s go-to stopper against most of the best scorers in the West. Per Second Spectrum, George has been matched up against Kevin Durant, James Harden and LeBron James more than three times as much as any of his teammates since joining the franchise last season. Any team hoping to emerge from the West better have a means to slow down those guys. George is the means for OKC.”