4 min read

Monday Bolts: 11.19.18

Royce Young (ESPN) on Russell and Nina Westbrook having twin girls: “Oklahoma City Thunder star Russell Westbrook on Sunday announced the birth of twin girls Skye and Jordyn. Westbrook, who had missed the Thunder’s past five games because of a sprained left ankle, missed Saturday’s 110-100 win over the Phoenix Suns with what the team listed as “personal reasons.” Westbrook, who was a full participant in a contact practice on Friday and went through the team’s shootaround on Saturday, appeared set to return against the Suns. However, he left after the team’s shootaround to fly to Los Angeles to join his wife, Nina, for the birth of their daughters on Saturday night. Nina Westbrook posted on Instagram that the girls “are here and healthy.”

Westbrook’s Instagram announcement:

Nick Gallo (okcthunder.com) previews tonight’s game at Sacramento: “The Thunder has won 10 of its last 11 games, including 3 straight total and 4 of its last 5 on the road, but heading into Thanksgiving week the team recognizes that it has a chance to build further on its number in the win column and put some victories in the bank. There’s also an element of urgency against the Kings team, who came into Oklahoma City and spoiled the Thunder’s home opener back in October. Sacramento’s De’Aaron Fox has been a revelation at the point guard spot, shooting above 50 percent from the field and over 40 percent from the three-point line in this young season. With the spacing provided by Buddy Hield and Nemanja Bjelica, wide berths have been given by opponents to let big men like Willi Cauley-Stein and Marvin Bagley put pressure on the rim with rolls to the bucket. In order to continue its top-three ranking in defensive efficiency. “We gotta load up. We know they like to get to the basket,” said forward Jerami Grant. “We just gotta get back, load quick and get out to the three after.”

Westbrook’s status for tonight’s game:

Rafe Wong (A Royal Pain) previews tonight’s Thunder/Kings match-up from the other side: “For the Thunder, their superstar guard Russell Westbrook is currently out due to personal reasons. So that leaves the Thunder to turn to Dennis Schroder to facilitate their team. He may not be Westbrook, but Schroder is still a point guard that can give opponents fits. In 15 games this season, he is averaging over 16 points, five assists, and four rebounds a night. His numbers are even better as a starter as he is averaging over 17 points, six assists, and five rebounds in eight games. Whichever player wins this individual matchup will help their team immensely. If Fox wants to be the victor, he needs to push the pace so he can set his teammates and himself for easy scores. If successful, he will tire out Schroder and the rest of the Thunder team on defense. Defensively, Fox needs to make sure Schroder is as uncomfortable as possible. This means he has to cover him up like a sweater to make sure there is no offensive flow happening when the Thunder have possession of the ball.”

Maddie Lee (Oklahoman) on depth providing Billy Donovan with a flexible rotation: “Starting center Steven Adams, second unit forward Patrick Patterson, backup to the backup point guard Raymond Felton, two-way rookie Deonte Burton and garbage time player Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot stepped on the court for the Thunder to start the second quarter of OKC’s eventual 110-100 win over the Suns Sunday. That combination of players had never taken the floor in a game together before Saturday. But that was the case for a majority of Thunder lineups against the Suns. The absence of Russell Westbrook (personal reasons) Terrance Ferguson (personal reasons) and Alex Abrines (illness) forced OKC to try out some new things. Some worked. Some didn’t. But a flexible approach gave the Thunder a better sense of its depth and how to maximize it.”

Brett Dawson (Athletic) on the Thunder taking care of sub-.500 teams: “Oklahoma City is 3-4 against winning teams this season, and its prospective excellence is in question until that record improves. But its 7-1 record against sub-.500 teams is meaningful, given that it went 22-11 against those teams last season, the worst mark for a team in either conference that finished with a top-four playoff seed. Portland went 25-7 against losing teams last season and finished a game ahead of the Thunder for the No. 3 seed. With a playoff race that figures to be similarly contested, these wins matter. And Oklahoma City is piling them up by burying bad teams. Its three wins this week — two against Phoenix and one against the Knicks — came by an average of 17.3 points. Those wins aren’t always guaranteed.”

Dan Favale (B/R) picks SG as the Thunder’s weakest position in the starting lineup: “Ferguson his hitting just 25.6 percent of his three-pointers. Any apparent progress invariably proves fleeting. He followed up a 4-of-9 showing from long range against the Dallas Mavericks on Nov. 8 by going 1-of-8 over his next two games. The Thunder offense cannot withstand his brick-laying no matter how much he hustles on defense. He works his butt off in the half-court, but he’s no Andre Roberson. With Oklahoma City hovering around the bottom five of effective field-goal percentage, Ferguson is more obstacle than asset until he bangs in more than 31.8 percent of his uncontested treys. He’s also the team’s best stopgap while Roberson rehabs his injured left knee. Alex Abrines isn’t swishing enough of his threes to justify more playing time. Rookie Hamidou Diallo is good for spot minutes, but he’s otherwise in the same boat. Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot is barely allowed in the building. Eventually, starting Dennis Schroder beside Westbrook might be an option, but not an especially palatable one.”

Don’t look now:

Around the League: The Warriors are trying to keep perspective after a dramatic week…. Steve Kerr says the Dubs are experiencing the “real NBA”…. LeBron dropped 51 last night in Miami…. Jimmy Butler is already thriving in Philly…. Recapping yesterday’s NBA action.