Nick Gallo (okcthunder.com) recaps Saturday’s win in Houston — the largest comeback in Thunder franchise history: “If you had been watching this for 60 real time minutes before the final buzzer sounded, the final outcome would have seemed ridiculous. In the first half the Rockets got everything they wanted offensively, burying 12-of-27 three-pointers and picking up easy buckets around the rim due to 12 Thunder turnovers that resulted in 17 Houston points. The physicality for the Thunder was all wrong, as was the cohesion. George and Westbrook had been mildly productive, but the Thunder fell behind at one point by 26 and stared a 22-point deficit square in the face heading into halftime. It’s a long game. The Thunder understood just how long, but knew the comeback had to get started right away in the third quarter, with the correct attitude and approach. Westbrook put his arm around Terrance Ferguson and Jerami Grant and told them to do something simple: stop thinking. “Russ just said play your game out there, stop thinking. Do what you do. That’s just what happened,” recalled Ferguson, who scored 11 of his 15 points in the third quarter.”
Royce Young (ESPN) on Paul George, Russell Westbrook and contributions from a thin Thunder roster: “The Thunder have won 10 of 11, the blemish a five-point road loss against the Boston Celtics on Super Bowl Sunday. The run has come in the wake of losing five of six, with George turning it around with a four-point game winner against the Philadelphia 76ers on Jan. 19. They’ve established an identity as a swarming defensive team that plays fast and in transition, with Westbrook’s hellish paint attacks setting the table for George’s patient scoring. Westbrook has willingly and openly ceded the floor to George, finding a way to mesh their contrasting styles and personalities. But what’s elevating the Thunder is their complementary parts, such as Dennis Schroder who had 17 points (13 in the third quarter) and Terrance Ferguson (15 points, 3 of 5 from 3). Steven Adams is at the concrete wall in the middle, setting Richter scale registering screens and anchoring them defensively. Jerami Grant has blossomed as a Swiss Army stretch 4, hitting 3s and protecting the rim. It’s a balanced roster, the most blended the Thunder have had since Kevin Durant was part of it.”
Russ, PG, and Ray were in on the recruitment of Wesley Matthews: Unfortunately, it didn’t work.
Brett Dawson (Athletic) on what’s next for the Thunder after waiving Abrines: “The Thunder could convert a two-way contract to a full NBA deal, and Burton is a candidate for that move. There’s confidence in the organization that the 6-foot-5 Burton is an NBA player. And even if he’s not ready to contribute this season, OKC likely wants to take a longer-term look at him. Oklahoma City could sign players who are bought out by other teams. And though there has been a flurry of buyout activity this week, the market likely won’t be fully set until the end of this month, giving the Thunder some time to survey their options. It’s unlikely the Thunder will add a rotation piece through the buyout market, if only because they have fairly limited roles to offer. OKC was among the teams interested in bought-out wing players Wesley Matthews and Wayne Ellington, both of whom ultimately committed to teams with more minutes available. Still, the Thunder are likely to explore options among other bought-out players. If there’s a rotation player to be found once the dust settles, the Thunder are a safe bet to pursue him.”
Tony Pesta (Blue Man Hoop) on why the Warriors should pursue Abrines: “For his career, Abrines is averaging 5.3 points per game in 16 minutes of playing time. He isn’t exceptionally well at anything, shooting only 38.7 percent from the field and being an average defender. Still, his presence will be welcomed if he joined the Warriors. Abrines can offer some stability off of the bench for Golden State. Right now, the Warriors most important bench players (For the playoffs) are Andre Iguodala, Kevon Looney, Jonas Jerebko and Shaun Livingston. These four players are the only guys who have experience and enough talent to be worthy of playing meaningful minutes. However, the problem emerges when you realize that Livingston is playing in his 14th season and Iguodala is in his 15th season. As players get older, their chances of being injured increase. Therefore, there is no telling if Iguodala and Livingston will be healthy in the long term. This is why it is important to sign an extra bench player while the Dubs still have a chance. Maybe Abrines isn’t the most talented player but there won’t be many more players available soon. If the Warriors get a chance to acquire Abrines they absolutely should take it.”
Erik Horne (Oklahoman) on Deonte Burton filling a role as OKC’s depth test continues: “Deonte Burton had only played three minutes before he’d gone through a rite of passage for any young perimeter player against the Houston Rockets. In the third quarter of the Thunder’s 117-112 win against the Rockets on Saturday, Burton was inserted into the midst of OKC’s record-setting comeback, only to get isolated by James Harden. Burton fouled Harden shooting a 3-pointer, nothing to be ashamed of for a rookie on a two-way contract with just 17 games of NBA experience. Burton didn’t play in the first two games against the Rockets this season. By the end of Saturday’s game, Burton had been a key contributor to the biggest comeback in Thunder regular-season history, a 26-point rally in which Burton had three key rebounds and some tough defensive assignments in 10 minutes. The Thunder didn’t expect Burton and second-year wing Abdel Nader to even play significant minutes this season. But with Andre Roberson still rehabbing his left knee and Alex Abrines waived on Saturday, Burton was the latest dip into the Thunder’s depth reserves.”
Nick Crane (HoopsHabit) on why the Thunder should consider signing Markieff Morris: “Markieff Morris, twin brother of Boston Celtics key player Marcus Morris, would bring the Thunder toughness on both ends of the floor. Players of his skill set have become more and more important as the NBA changes. At 6’10”, he plays power forward and averages 11.8 points per game over his career. Although only a 33.8% three-point shooter over the course of his career, that is still good enough to keep teams honest when it comes to floor spacing. He can guard both the power forward and center position and is another player who would prove useful for Oklahoma City in small-ball lineups. Morris is the ultimate role-player and gives it all he has every given night. Morris would change the bench unit and give them a toughness that they do not currently have. With a bigger body, he is a good screener and could create a lot of space in pick-and-pop situations with Dennis Schroder.”
Jerami Grant on tonight’s injury report vs Portland:
Around the League: Magic Johnson is mad at the Pelicans…. KD is featured on the Knicks’ season ticket pitch for next season….. Ben Simmons shot a 3 and the Sixers would like him to continue trying that…. Wes Matthews will start in Indiana…. Kyrie Irving is day-to-day with a strained knee…. Projecting the impactful buyout market (ESPN+)…. How teams are using eye-tracking to enhance performance…. The special bond between NBA players and their dogs…. The resurgent Kings are looking for a playoff spot.