Nick Gallo (okcthunder.com) previews tonight’s game in Utah: “In the course of 48 hours, the Thunder played two games down to the wire, one win and one loss, that were decided by a total of 16 points. In those two battles, the Thunder allowed the opposition to take a combined 93 free throws – 47 for the Portland Trail Blazers on Thursday and 46 for the LA Clippers on Friday night. To Head Coach Billy Donovan, this is a trend that has to stop, now. With the Thunder’s four-game Western Conference road swing concluding on Monday night in Salt Lake City with a matchup against the Utah Jazz, Donovan’s club will have to be hands off in the right moments to prevent another march to the line from players like Donovan Mitchell, Joe Ingles, Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert. “A lot of it is based on decisions. There are going to be times where there is a drive, there’s contact at the basket and you’re going to foul,” Donovan began. “The ones we’re committing is there’s a post entry pass and we’re trying to reach and try to go around and deflect or steal it. There’s a pass out at 35 feet and we’re pressuring a guy. We don’t need to be doing that.”
Thunder news release on Deonte Burton signing for the rest of the season: “The Oklahoma City Thunder has signed guard Deonte Burton to an NBA contract, it was announced today by Executive Vice President and General Manager Sam Presti. Per team policy, terms of the agreement were not released. Originally signed to a Two-Way Contract by the Thunder on July 7, 2018, Burton has appeared in 23 games with the Thunder, averaging 3.1 points and 1.0 rebound in 8.7 minutes per contest. In 24 games (23 starts) with the Oklahoma City Blue of the NBA G League, the Milwaukee native recorded averages of 16.9 points, 5.0 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 2.25 steals and 1.04 blocks in 29.8 minutes.”
Ohm Youngmisuk (ESPN) on Paul George airing his grievances with NBA officials: “After the Oklahoma City Thunder’s Paul George, Russell Westbrook and Steven Adams fouled out in the final four minutes of a 118-110 loss to the LA Clippers on Friday night at Staples Center, George ripped the officiating in the NBA and said something must be done. “It’s just bad officiating,” George said. “I’m sorry, just bad officiating. We don’t get a fair whistle. We haven’t gotten a fair whistle all year. … Somebody’s got to look into this. It’s getting out of hand, where we somehow just walk teams to the line. And there’s nobody that gets more contact. If I don’t speak for myself, I speak for Russ. There’s nobody that gets more contact than Russ going to the basket. And it’s just crazy. I don’t understand it. It’s a piece of s— being on that floor. We giving everything we got.”
Kurt Helin (NBC) on how much money George lost for speaking his mind: “Whatever George thinks, he knows this is a fine and the league handed down the standard $25,000 one on Saturday. We could get into how every player and coach thinks “officiating the game the right way” would lead to them getting a lot more calls, because obviously they get hacked every time they drive the lane while their bigs rarely foul opposition guys on the attack. Just know that the Clippers lead the NBA in free throw attempts per game — they do play a physical, downhill style of play that draws a lot of fouls — while the Thunder commit the fourth most fouls in the league. This was not unpredictable.”
PG kept it rolling on Twitter: Patrick Beverley declared individual superiority in their match-up. Paul did not agree.
ESPN has the Thunder 8th in their latest power rankings: “The Thunder have lost six of their past eight games to slide to a tie with the Blazers for the fourth seed in the West. The good news is that they are still within a game of the Rockets for the third seed and Paul George is back and healthy, but the bad news is that their next seven games are against playoff teams, starting Monday in Salt Lake City.”
Erik Horne (Oklahoman) asks if the Thunder can align winning with Russell Westbrook’s offensive uptick: “Don’t ask Russell Westbrook about his shooting. The answer is typically binary, either a “next question” or silent dismissal. It’s not that Westbrook is superstitious, though he’s shown habitual tendencies both on and off the court in his 11 NBA seasons, but his shooting efficiency is not his priority. That doesn’t mean it lacks importance. Those around the Thunder have professed all season they aren’t worried about Westbrook’s shooting. Now, Westbrook’s shooting well as OKC’s play has hit a stretch of inconsistency. Since the All-Star break, Westbrook has experienced his best run of shooting all season. The Thunder was playing its best basketball when his jump shot was missing and Paul George’s was on target. The key isn’t total pullback from Westbrook, but alignment of the two stars with contributions from the peripheral players. While George has struggled in his seven games since the All-Star break (34.8 percent), Westbrook has flourished (47.4). Westbrook’s shots are up, exactly four per game from 19.7 to 23.7, but he’s not taking shots from George, who’s up from 20.9 to 23.”
Maddie Lee (Oklahoman) on the Thunder second unit hitting their stride: “The Thunder second unit has staged comebacks in each of the past three games, the first three in a four-game Western Conference road trip. OKC won just one of those three foul-heavy games and heads to Utah for the fourth Monday. The stability of the second unit wasn’t enough to spark a winning streak, but it was a new development. Absences and additions disrupted the Thunder’s rotations in late February and early March. Jerami Grant sprained his ankle, and Dennis Schroder was away for the birth of his son before the All-Star break. Markieff Morris joined the team, and Paul George missed three games due to right shoulder soreness after the break. “It’s been different,” Donovan said, “and I feel like we’ve gotten better over the last game or two where there’s been more consistency, kind of the same unit of guys going out there.”
Brandon “Scoop B” Robinson (Heavy.com) with an unverified report on Paul George’s shoulder injury: “Oklahoma City Thunder All Star, Paul George is having an MVP season. George has literally been shouldering the load for the 40-26 Thunder who are currently sitting in fifth place in the NBA’s Western Conference. A league source with ties to the Oklahoma City Thunder shared with me that George may have a minor tear in his rotator cuff in his right shoulder.”
Brett Dawson’s rebuttal to the PG “report”:
Around the League: The Suns shocked the Warriors…. Klay wants more energy from Warriors’ fans…. KD suffered an ankle contusion in the loss to Phoenix…. Joel Embiid came back and dropped 33 on the Pacers…. The Raptors hit 21 threes in a win over the Heat…. Luka Doncic suffered a knee injury…. The Lakers need a long look in the mirror…. Does the NBA have a social media problem?…. The NBA’s age of anxiety.