Nick Gallo recaps last night’s loss in Phoenix: “The Thunder trailed after a Troy Daniels three-pointer with 2:48 left in the first quarter, and never led again the rest of the night. On four occasions, including once deep into the third quarter, the Thunder pulled back to within one point, but could never get over the hump. “We just didn’t play up to the level that we needed to,” forward Paul George said. “It’s a young team that played hard. They beat us in physicality. They were just aggressive. A young team playing aggressive on their floor. They got hot and it resulted in a loss for us.”
Brett Dawson on Russell Westbrook surging back to MVP form: “Since the calendar turned to December, the Thunder is 14-5. Only Golden State (15-2) and Toronto (14-3) have been better. And Westbrook, slumping to start the season, looks increasingly like the player who won the MVP last season — and like a guy who belongs in the mix again. Over the Thunder’s current 19-game stretch, Westbrook is doing what he did for a full season in 2016-17, and what nobody figured he’d ever do again. He’s averaging a triple-double.”
Brett Dawson also got a Q&A with Westbrook: “Does it bother you when people say, ‘These guys who played with him went off to other places and played better?’ “No, that’s great, actually. That means they learned something. They learned something, man. I don’t really care.”
Seerat Sohi (SB Nation) on why the Thunder needs Andre Roberson: “Roberson is Oklahoma’s peskiest defender, a conundrum only because of how effective he is on that end. For the Thunder, whose playoff hopes will rest on overpowering opponents with their elite athleticism, defense, and size, Roberson is a key to the formula. When the offense grinds to a halt, and Roberson gets hacked and sent to the line, it may feel like the Thunder can’t live with him. There’s no getting around this: It’s frustrating to watch. But in the grand scheme, they can’t live without him either.”
Dan Feldman (NBC) on Carmelo Anthony not getting fined for swearing on live TV: “After the Thunder’s win over the Clippers last night, Carmelo Anthony let the expletives fly when Russell Westbrook dumped cold water on him during a televised post-game interview. Considering Marc Gasol got fined $15,000 for using profanity during a televised post-game interview earlier this season, it seemed likely Anthony would draw similar punishment. Alas, the NBA showed leniency.”
Tyler Watamanuk (GQ) on Russell Westbrook’s signature Jordan sneaker: “Westbrook’s new kicks are futuristic and eye-catching in all the right ways: sleek, slightly geometric, and cutting-edge without looking too out of the ordinary. (You don’t want your game-day kicks to be too bizarre—that’s what your off-court sneakers are for.) The shoe is also jam-packed with the type of technical details and support that the reigning MVP needs to stay at the top of his game.”
Brandon Richard (Sole Collector) with a look at the upcoming Nike PG2: “The model features a reinforced mesh forefoot, suede overlay, bootie construction, Zoom Air cushioning and a marbled rubber outsole. Swooshes appear along the toe and midsole, while George’s logo once again adorns the tongue.”
Around the League: Kawhi Leonard has a partial tear in his shoulder…. Draymond Green says the ref/player relationship is ruining the game…. Lavar Ball finally turned on Luke Walton and the Lakers…. Isaiah Thomas is changing the game for Cleveland.