4 min read

Monday Bolts: 3.19.18

Nick Gallo recaps yesterday’s win over the Raptors: “Try as they might, neither defense could cool off a pair of incredibly hot shooting squads as the Thunder and Raptors traded runs and swapped outrageously difficult made shots throughout the afternoon. The first half was a roller coaster. The second half, a steady buzz of anxiety as the lead swapped hands 25 total times in the game, with 20 lead changes. In a game like that, it’s always good to have the NBA’s most competitive, most relentless closer. Russell Westbrook took over down the stretch for the Thunder by scoring 17 of the team’s 19 points to close out the win, including a banked in jump shot from the left wing over Serge Ibaka with 11.7 seconds to go that made it a 4-point game. Prior to that, Westbrook continually attacked and got to his left hand, finishing with three layups going that direction in the final 3:18 of play after Toronto’s Kyle Lowry fouled out.”

Brett Dawson on Steven Adams’ monster performance in Toronto: “Adams had 25 points and eight rebounds against the Raptors, playing 33 minutes despite the ankle tweak and a knee to the groin from former teammate Serge Ibaka. It’s nothing new for Adams to take a hit down under. After the game, he joked that kicks to the kiwis are “an everyday thing,” the result of a defensive effort to stay vertical and contest shots by hard-charging big men. “You have to face them,” Adams said. “Unfortunately Serge is not the most coordinated guy, so ended up, yeah. Old mate.” Then, chuckling under his breath, Adams added, “What a (expletive).”

Mike Bohn (USA Today) on DeMar DeRozan being upset with the officiating: “DeRozan attacked with a potential game-tying layup with 30 seconds remaining. Defended by Corey Brewer, DeRozan found a lane to the basket but could not finish after taking contact. No foul call was made and the Thunder scored on the other end. DeRozan voiced his displeasure to referee Marc Davis, who dished out a technical foul. Moments later, DeRozan received a second technical and was ejected from the game. “He smacked the (expletive) out of me,” DeRozan said of Brewer during his postgame scrum with reporters, including USA TODAY Sports. “He smacked me. He tried to smack me because I had the layup. Period. I got fouled.”

Elias Sports Bureau on Russell Westbrook and Sunday’s triple-double: “This is the third time that Westbrook has achieved TDs in five straight games. The only other player with three such streaks was Oscar Robertson. But that’s not all. Sunday’s triple-double came against a team with the best record in the Eastern Conference: The Raptors had a 52–17 record coming into the game. Only four other players recorded a triple-double in a road win over a team with a record at least 35 games above the .500 mark: Oscar Robertson vs. Philadelphia in 1968; John Havlicek and Bill Bridges against the Knicks, 10 days apart in 1970; and Jason Kidd vs. San Antonio in 1996. Westbrook’s was by far the highest-scoring of those five triple-doubles; Havlicek, the runner-up, scored 30 points and did so in an overtime game.”

More history for Carmelo Anthony:

Fred Katz on Billy Donovan tinkering with the rotation: “It’s not like Donovan sat a bunch of usual contributors during Friday’s win, though he did hand third-year forward Josh Huestis a DNP. Still, the Thunder played 10 players, giving five reserves at least 10 minutes in the process. Donovan’s focus, instead, was on limiting the number of lineups. He ran the starters for 28 total minutes, grouping Russell Westbrook, Corey Brewer, Paul George, Carmelo Anthony and Steven Adams together to maximize his best unit’s time on the floor.  It’s something Donovan has prioritized all season, why he plays an all-bench lineup for a few minutes each half. The more time the reserves play together, the more time the starters can. And he wants to get his first unit as many minutes together as possible. Donovan just hasn’t been this drastic. Not 28 minutes a night. Not close.”

Tim Cato (SB Nation) on OKC’s playoff push: “The Oklahoma City Thunder have passed the first two major tests in their playoff push with aplomb — beating the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday and winning 132-125 over the Toronto Raptors on Sunday. While the Thunder still have the league’s toughest remaining schedule by win percentage, their chances of making the playoffs look healthier than ever. According to FiveThirtyEight, in fact, the Thunder are all but locked in — they grade their odds at 99 percent. With a four game lead on the No. 9 seeded team, and just 10 games left in the season, Oklahoma City probably only needs about four more wins to ensure their spot.”

Chris Thompson (Deadspin) on the Thunder’s Corey Brewer experiment being a surprising success: “This is as good a time as any to note that the Thunder are a truly f***ing ridiculous 6-0 since they made Corey Brewer a starter. Corey Brewer. This was cute and funny when it was four straight, and three of the wins had come over Sacramento, Atlanta, and Phoenix, but it is no longer a laughing matter. Their last two wins have come over a desperate Clippers team and the NBA’s best home team. Again I want to stress that this was done while Corey Effing Brewer was starting in their backcourt. He’s played more than 30 minutes in each of their last five games.”

Kevin O’Connor (Ringer) answers four big Thunder questions: “We have been at least starting to see glimpses of Team USA Melo this month. Anthony has been streaky from behind the arc this season, but the Thunder have made a point of late to funnel him spot-up 3-pointers. Last season for the Knicks, 19.6 percent of Melo’s field goal attempts were catch-and-shoot 3s, according to Second Spectrum; from October through February this season, that number nearly doubled, to 33 percent. In eight games this March, the number has risen to 47.9 percent. To put that into perspective, 37.6 percent of Klay Thompson’s shots are catch-and-shoot 3s, and they’re 66.3 percent of Kyle Korver’s. Carmelo’s evolution is coming at the exact time it needs to.”

Around the League: Jimmy Butler hopes to return before the playoffs…. KD is out at least two weeks with a rib injury…. John Stockton’s son signed with the Jazz…. Predicting the next Victor Oladipo…. A Gordon Hayward injury update…. FiveThirtyEight’s playoff predictor.