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Monday Bolts: 2.4.19

Nick Gallo (okcthunder.com) recaps yesterday’s loss in Boston: “The chances were there for the Thunder – at the rim in the first half, on defensive rotations in the second half and in the final seconds on a breakneck-speed-coast-to-coast drive by Russell Westbrook with the Boston Celtics ahead by only two points. In all three facets though, the Thunder just couldn’t come up with the plays to get over the hump and eventually fell 134-129 to the Celtics on the road.”

Tim Bontemps (ESPN) on Russell Westbrook taking responsibility for the loss: “In a late game like that, I’ve just got to take care of the ball,” Westbrook said. “That’s on me.” Westbrook’s gaffe came with a little more than 10 seconds remaining and the Thunder trailing by two. When Jayson Tatum was fouled and sent to the free throw line with 16.2 seconds left, following a made 3-pointer by Thunder forward Jerami Grant to cut Boston’s lead to 130-129, the plan was for Westbrook to try to get the ball upcourt and attack if Tatum missed one of the two free throws. After making the first free throw, Tatum did just that, and Westbrook, who finished with 22 points, 12 rebounds and 16 assists for his 19th triple-double of the season (and sixth in a row) wound up with the rebound, allowing him to attack Boston’s defense while it wasn’t set, precisely as coach Billy Donovan had hoped… As Westbrook came down the left side of the court, he put the ball behind his back as Kyrie Irving tried to reach in for a steal. Then, as Tatum did the same, he brought the ball back to his left — only to lose control of it.”

Erik Horne (Oklahoman) with observations from yesterday’s game against the Celtics: “Not a bad loss for the Thunder on the road against one of the best home teams in the league (Celtics are now 22-6 at home), but when you score 129 points against the second-best defense in the NBA, you’ll look back and wish you had this one, not just for the standings, but psychologically. Said Donovan: “Every time we got close, they made some really, really good plays, made some big shots. You have to give them credit too. I think our defense wasn’t nearly what it has been and can be and should be for us.”

Thunder/Celtics highlights:

Brett Dawson (Athletic) on Friday’s trade that sent Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot to the Bulls: “In trading swingman Timothé Luwawu-Cabarrot and cash considerations to Chicago for a protected 2020 second-round pick, the Thunder continued to whittle away at what started as a massive tax bill this season. The Luwawu-Cabarrot trade, combined with trading Carmelo Anthony — in a multi-team deal that brought Schröder to OKC — and the waive-and-stretch of Kyle Singler have shaved more than $80 million off the projected tax bill. The Thunder still are projected to pay more than $65 million in luxury tax. But the savings from shedding Luwawu-Cabarrot’s contract open up some options as the trade deadline approaches. If there’s a player OKC covets on the buyout market, the Thunder could in theory sign him for a prorated veteran minimum that would count less against the tax than Luwawu-Cabarrot would have. Or if the Thunder are willing to spend a little more, they could outbid teams offering a prorated minimum to a desired player. That could be a factor if multiple teams are in pursuit of, for example, the Knicks’ Wesley Matthews, should New York opt to buy him out and Oklahoma City express interest.”

Bobby Marks (ESPN+) discusses the Thunder ahead of Thursday’s NBA trade deadline: “Not only did the Thunder acquire a strong backup in Dennis Schroder through the Carmelo Anthony trade, but they also created a $10.8 million trade exception. Although the Thunder have an open roster spot, using the exception comes at a cost because of the repeater tax. Adding salary would cost the team between $4.75 and $5.25 for every $1 spent. Since the start of the offseason, Oklahoma City has seen its tax bill shrink from $149.3 million to $66.1 million, including most recently saving $7.3 million when Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot was sent to the Bulls. Now it’s easier for the Thunder to be aggressive, either with their exception or after the deadline, when players are bought out of their contract.”

Something to keep an eye on:

Ian Begley (ESPN) spoke with players about what it’s like to be traded: “Enes Kanter, New York Knicks: “I was actually doing a basketball camp in Oklahoma City for orphans, and then my manager’s assistant brought me the phone. I was like, “I’m in the middle of the court. I’m in the middle of the basketball clinic. I cannot do it. I’ll take it later.” He said, “No, no, take it. It’s important.” OK, I took it. And my manager said, “Don’t look too excited, but you just got traded to the Knicks.” I’m like, “Oh, my God.” And then at the end of the camp, we all came to the middle, and we were going to say, “1, 2, 3 Thunder!” And I said, “OK, Knicks on 3,” and all the kids were booing and stuff. It was fun… I remember that night. I came home, packed my stuff, and then [Russell Westbrook and Steven Adams] wanted to go to dinner. I’m like, “Man, should I go to dinner? Or should I pack?” I went to dinner. “

Paul Kasabian (B/R) on Hamidou Diallo entering the 2019 Slam Dunk Contest: “Oklahoma City Thunder rookie guard Hamidou Diallo will participate in the 2019 NBA Slam Dunk Contest, according to Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports. Miami Heat forward Derrick Jones Jr. was supposed to take part, per Oliver Maroney of Lineups (h/t Haynes), but Jones has suffered a knee injury and will not attend. New York Knicks guard Dennis Smith Jr. reportedly committed to participating in the event before his trade to New York, per Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium, while Haynes reported that Charlotte Hornets rookie forward Miles Bridges will also take part. Maroney reported that Atlanta Hawks forward John Collins will be the last participant.”

Around the League: NBA reactions to a somewhat boring Super Bowl…. Rodney Hood is headed to Portland…. Kristaps Porzingis wants Knicks fans to “stay woke”…. Dennis Smith Jr. had a positive Knicks debut…. Things are going very well for Luke Walton…. The Pelicans are expected to make the Lakers a counteroffer in the Anthony Davis sweepstakes…. How NBA agents prepare for the trade deadline…. LeBron opens up on that Kyrie Irving phone call and more.