6 min read

Monday Bolts: 2.25.19

Monday Bolts: 2.25.19

Erik Horne (Oklahoman) on Paul George changing the narrative around his clutch-time shooting: “George was in the midst of his second-worst shooting performance of the season when he hoisted a potential game-winner against Sacramento on Saturday. In other seasons, George twirling past his initial defender and firing a deep 3-pointer in front of a 7-footer’s outstretched arms would have been a sure misfire in the final seconds of a game. Not this season. When George’s 30-foot attempt hit the front of the rim, Chesapeake Energy Arena was stunned. Even in a 4-of-19 game, George has raised the level of expectation to where his high-degree of difficulty shot was expected to go in. In less than a season, George has erased his unclutch reputation, so much that it’s more surprising when he misses in late-game situations. In the final 10 seconds of games within three points or less this season, George leads the league in points scored with 15. It’s why despite playing nearly 90 minutes in a span of less than 24 hours this weekend, it was still disarming to see George’s shot fall short in a 119-116 loss to Sacramento.”

ESPN has the Thunder fifth in their latest power rankings: “Russell Westbrook did not manage a triple-double in either game since the All-Star break, but he might have finally found his shooting stroke. Westbrook has scored 88 points on 50.8 percent shooting from the field in the first two games post-break, and he has knocked down an eye-catching 11 3-pointers on 44 percent shooting. The 11 3-pointers are by far the most he has made in consecutive games this season, and the 15 he has made in his past three games are four more than the total he knocked down in the 12 preceding games.”

Current Western Conference Standings:

via ESPN

Royce Young (ESPN) on Paul George showing off the clutch in Friday’s double-OT win over the Jazz: “After being eliminated in the playoffs in six games by the Jazz last season, the Thunder are 3-0 against Utah this season, with George averaging 39.6 points on 60 percent shooting in those contests. He had a lot of reasons for returning to the Thunder, but one he has personally noted is how last season ended. He scored just five points on 2-of-16 shooting as the Jazz finished OKC, and that taste hasn’t left him. The edge is obvious when he plays the Jazz, though he downplayed it after Friday’s tilt when asked if it meant a little more to hit a winner against Utah. “No, I mean we just need these wins,” George said. “That game winner wouldn’t have happened if the guys didn’t make big shots. Jerami made a big 3, Abdel [Nader] made a big 3. Those guys put me in position to win this game. The floater wouldn’t have happened if those dudes didn’t make big shots when we needed, because I went cold there for a minute but those dudes stepped up.”

Maddie Lee (Oklahoman) on Russell Westbrook’s recent scoring surge: “Westbrook scored 44 points in the Thunder’s 131-122 loss at New Orleans on Feb. 14, 43 points in a 148-147 double overtime win over Utah on Friday and 41 in a 119-116 loss to Sacramento on Saturday. He shot 50 percent or better from the field in each, something he’s done in just 20 games this season. “Game will tell you what to do,” Westbrook said Saturday. “I’ve always said that and I believe in it. The game will tell you what needs to be done. And tonight was try to stay in attack mode and try to score and give ourselves a chance to win.” Against New Orleans, Westbrook extended his record-setting triple-double streak to 11 games. But that ended on Friday when Westbrook fouled out two assists short of a triple-double. On Saturday, Westbrook recorded just four assists on a night when the Thunder shot 38.1 percent from the field.”

Had a Good Run:

Zach Harper (Athletic) on Westbrook being one of the five worst drivers in the NBA this season: “Seeing Westbrook as the third worst in the NBA when it comes to scoring on drives is surprising. We think of Westbrook as this self-catapulting missile capable of detonating the rim at any given blink of the eye. However, this is consistently the area in which the Oklahoma City Thunder star finds himself on scoring efficiency when it comes to drives. Just once in the last six years has Westbrook cleared 50 percent scoring rate on drives to the basket. The last three years, he’s been in the low 40s. Westbrook just rarely excels in this consistently, probably because of all the defensive attention he has matching his hubris for trying to take on the world. This year, it looks a bit different. You may remember Westbrook had a knee operation in mid-September. He missed eight of the first 15 games of the season. While averaging a triple-double once again remains to be an insane thing to do, Westbrook’s ability to make jumpers and make layups has struggled. He’s shooting the lowest percentages since his second season in the NBA. Some sources around the league have wondered if his knee isn’t allowing him to be as explosive and controlled on drives. However, his percentages compared to years past remain relatively consistent with this season. He just finds himself out of control a bit too much.”

Ben Ladner (FanSided) on if OKC is a legit threat to the Warriors this season: “As a result of its high-pressure scheme, Oklahoma City plays at one of the fastest paces in the league and poach easy points in transition. Most importantly, the Thunder are designed to keep up with Golden State in a playoff series. Their athletic, rangy personnel can mitigate mismatches by switching across several positions while their constant activity and attentiveness provide some resistance to the Warriors’ constant flow of cuts, passes and screens. George and Grant’s size on the perimeter gives them some hope of making Kevin Durant uncomfortable while Adams is just the sort of big who can wrestle with DeMarcus Cousins inside. Should Adams prove too slow-footed to hang with downsized lineups, both Grant and Noel can fulfill switching and rim-protecting duties in small units. The rotation remains short a shooter or two, and Westbrook’s inability to score efficiently could again be this team’s undoing. The Warriors may simply be unconquerable. But the Thunder have positioned themselves as best they can, and that’s all a team can really do.”

Nick DePaula (ESPN) picks the best sneakers of Week 19 of the NBA season: “Since debuting his second Jordan signature sneaker in early January, Oklahoma City Thunder All-Star Russell Westbrook has been hijacking the main stage that is the arena entryway to unveil his latest themed editions on a nightly basis. He has coordinated a construction worker outfit with a neon and orange colorway, hauled in Super Soaker-inspired packaging for a linking colorway and even had a special “Bear Jordan” edition drafting off of a teddy bear and a Valentine’s chocolate box. His latest stunt featured unkempt flowing orange hair along the box lid and a design inspired by the shorts of none other than Chuckie Finster, the lovable cartoon character from the 1990s show “Rugrats.” Westbrook later took the floor in a colorway bringing the theme full circle, with hits of orange, blue and purple throughout, and Chuckie’s shorts pattern along the collar.”

Around the League: Recapping last night’s NBA action….LeBron questions his teammates’ sense of urgency…. Boogie is frustrated by recent struggles…. Harden was hit with a $25k fine for criticizing refs…. The NBA is reminding teams to keep it cool with officials…. Ja Rule has cursed the Minnesota Timberwolves…. The race for eighth in the West…. The NBA is seeing how LeBron-to-Miami has pushed the league to the brink of disaster.