5 min read

Monday Bolts: 3.18.19

Monday Bolts: 3.18.19

Nick Gallo (okcthunder.com) previews tonight’s home game against the Miami Heat: “Back in September, before the season even began, both Thunder General Manager Sam Presti and Head Coach Billy Donovan were on the same page – the key to the Thunder’s long-term success in the 2018-19 season was something it was going to have to do not just every game, but every possession. The operative word for the Thunder was pace in that opening month, and during the season it has mostly followed through on maintaining an up-tempo style of play. This year the Thunder ranks third in the NBA in pace with 105.76 possessions per 48 minutes. In the second half in Indiana on Thursday and on Saturday against Golden State, however, Donovan’s club didn’t play to its identity as well, and got bogged down in more of a half-court style competition. As a result, both games ended in losses. On Monday, the Thunder will face another foe who would love to get the Thunder to slow it down. The incoming Miami Heat rank 23rd in pace this season.”

Erik Horne (Oklahoman) on Dwyane Wade’s impact going beyond basketball for the Thunder: “So much has changed in seven years in the NBA. Back in the 2012 season, however, time stood still. Dwyane Wade – still not in his twilight, but arguably at his peak as an influencer – had an indelible impact on a generation of NBA followers. Paul George remembers. Hamidou Diallo does too. Thunder coach Billy Donovan, still coaching at the University of Florida, was following Wade’s career and attending Miami Heat playoff games. When Wade, who plans to retire at the end of this season, plays his final game in Oklahoma City on Monday, it won’t be without leaving an imprint on the NBA and American culture. The Thunder can attest.”

Timothy Rapp (B/R) on Russell Westbrook’s one-game suspension that will keep him out vs Miami: “The NBA announced Sunday it would not be rescinding Russell Westbrook’s 16th technical foul from Saturday, meaning the Oklahoma City Thunder guard will be suspended for one game. Westbrook will serve the suspension Monday against the Miami Heat. Westbrook was called for his 16th technical during the team’s 110-88 loss to the Golden State Warriors. After not getting a call on a drive in the second quarter, Westbrook ran up to Klay Thompson and chest-bumped him, earning a foul, before immediately turning to the referee and beginning to argue about the previous non-call. The official, in turn, gave him a technical. “

Mark Medina (Mercury News) on how Klay Thompson brought out the worst in Westbrook on Saturday night: “Thompson had just stuffed Thunder guard Russell Westbrook on a drive to the basket. Westbrook fumed because officials did not call a foul. So, Westbrook let out his frustrations on Thompson. Westbrook charged into Thompson. Then, Westbrook collected a technical for arguing with the official. Thompson smiled and laughed over the whole incident. That snapshot marked the beginning of what would be a long night for the Thunder and Westbrook. The Warriors coasted to a 110-88 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Saturday, with plenty of the reasons circling back to Thompson. He had 23 points while shooting 9-of-21 from the field. Thompson also became the primary defender on Westbrook, who scored only seven points while going 2-of-16 from the field and 0-of-7 from 3. “He’s competitive. You see guys get frustrated and lash out,” Thompson said of Westbrook’s outburst. “It happens on our team and it happens to every NBA player. It’s nothing new.”

Brett Dawson (Athletic) on the loss to Golden State and the Thunder whimpering down the stretch: “There’s no shame in losing to the West’s best team, even at home. But a performance so flat on a stage so grand — an ABC primetime audience and a packed house at Chesapeake Energy Arena — underscored the Thunder’s recent struggles. Oklahoma City has won five of its past 14 games. Only three NBA teams — the Lakers, Knicks and Mavericks — are worse over their most recent 14. Three other teams are 5-9, none currently projected to make the playoffs. Since Feb. 14, OKC has the NBA’s 12th-best defense, allowing 108.8 points per 100 possessions and its third-worst offense, averaging 105.5. Only the Lakers are shooting worse from 3-point range over those 31 days than the Thunder’s 31.9 percent. That’s flatlined an offense that from Jan. 1 through Feb. 11 hit 41.2 percent of its 3-pointers en route to a 14-6 stretch. And as the Thunder have sputtered, some teams fighting them for playoff position have surged. The Rockets are 10-2 since Valentine’s Day, the Spurs 8-3. The Blazers and Jazz — each with a loss to Oklahoma City in that stretch — both are 8-4.”

Current Western Conference Standings:

via ESPN

The Thunder are 10th in ESPN’s latest power rankings: “The Thunder had an up-and-down week, starting with two straight wins before falling to the Pacers and Warriors. Paul George has struggled with his efficiency in his seven games back after a shoulder injury, making only 36.2 percent of his shots from the field, but he has averaged 30.0 PPG and 9.3 RPG in his past three to indicate that he is working the rust off. This week, the Thunder face the Heat plus a tough home-and-away set with the Raptors.”

Zach Harper (Athletic) has Paul George third in his MVP rankings: “George finally broke out of his shoulder-induced slump by showing up nicely against the Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday. He didn’t have a monster game by any means but an efficient 25 points (9-of-18) with 9 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals, and 2 blocks was a nice reminder that the shoulder slump isn’t him now or moving forward. George is probably going to win Defensive Player of the Year, and deservedly so. He won’t win MVP, but he’s going to be the guy who bumps LeBron James from All-NBA First Team for the first time since 2007 when Dirk Nowitzki and Tim Duncan both made it over LeBron. George is going to keep Durant off the First Team, which is something only Kawhi Leonard and a foot injury have been able to do over the years.”

Royce Young (ESPN) on the ball-hawking Thunder defense: “The Thunder have assembled one of the best defenses in the league, but it goes beyond just being hard to score upon. Their defense is sometimes their best offense, the basketball version of a scoop and score, picking pockets and picking off passes that turn into instant layups and dunks. It’s keyed by Westbrook and Paul George, who have spent most of the season alternating between No. 1 and 2 in the league in steals (James Harden currently moved slightly past Westbrook for No. 2), and both rank high in deflections and loose balls recovered. The Thunder have had an NBA-best 656 chances following a steal this season, per Second Spectrum. They average 1.20 points per chance after a steal, third-best in the NBA (behind the Kings at 1.26 and Raptors at 1.23). After a steal by Westbrook, though, it’s 1.26 points per chance and after a George steal it’s 1.27 points per chance. The league average is 1.14 points per chance. On average, when the Thunder score after a steal, it takes 9.6 seconds.”

Around the League: Giannis dropped 52 but the Sixers beat the Bucks on Sunday…. Things somehow got even worse for LeBron James and the Lakers…. Clyde Frazier let LeBron have a piece of his mind….DeMarcus Cousins is set for an MRI on his ankle…. CJ McCollum will miss time with a knee strain…. The rise of Buddy Hield…. Is the ‘hot hand theory’ a real thing?…. Inside the sneaker-giveaway trend taking over the NBA.