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Monday Bolts: 4.2.18

Happy Monday. These are the Bolts. We support our Oklahoma teachers.

Nick Gallo recaps last night’s Thunder win in New Orleans: “Anthony Davis put the ball on the floor, and for the New Orleans Pelicans center it only takes one or two dribbles to get from the perimeter to the rim. That’s why on Easter Sunday, Thunder guards like Russell Westbrook were quick to snap into the lane, derailing those long dribbles by sticking a hand in as the ball bounced high back up to Davis’ midsection. The result was a disruptive defensive performance by the Thunder to force 21 turnovers, and eventually a 109-104 victory.”

Fred Katz on an altered rotation in the victory over the Pelicans: “George, who finished with 27 points and eight rebounds, watched the middle of the first and third from an unfamiliar spot: the bench. Donovan pulled him with 5:28 remaining in the initial period. He put him back in with 4:05 to go, when George replaced Westbrook, who subbed out about a minute earlier than usual. And whether it’s coincidence or correlated, George had his most productive stretch of the game during the beginning of the second quarter, when he scored the first 11 points of the period. It was the most obvious of a few tweaks from Donovan, which made Sunday feel a bit more playoff-like than it could have.”

NBA.com’s updated look at the playoff race: The Thunder is at number five in the West and would play the Spurs in the first round if the season ended today.

Erik Horne on the Thunder needing this Jerami Grant: “Most importantly, Grant’s offense is under control. In Year 1 with the Thunder, Grant was all elbows and knees on wild drives. This season, he’s rapidly developed wiggle and a finishing touch around the rim — particularly going to his left — which has allowed him to diversity his offense rather than being simply a screen-and-roll dunker or spot-up shooter from 3. It started with a summer of targeted workouts on his balance and strength in Oklahoma City and Washington, D.C. “When he’s on balance, that’s when he does his best, because he’s very good with his left hand,” said Donovan, the third-year Thunder coach.”

Paolo Ugetti (Ringer) picks Carmelo Anthony as the most disappointing NBA player this season: “How you think of Melo’s season with the Thunder depends almost entirely on the expectations you had going in. (Mine were low.) At the same time, it’s hard to ignore the statistical decline on offense. This has been Melo’s worst season shooting from the field (40.6 percent), and he’s also posting a career-low 1.3 assists per game. Add in the fact he’s a liability on defense and Melo still getting starter-level minutes is truly puzzling. In an alternate reality, Melo adapts to a role off the bench and becomes a lethal scorer on the Thunder’s second unit. Instead, the offseason addition may be more of a subtraction.”

Christopher Reive (New Zealand Herald) on why Steven Adams deserves Most Improved Player considerations: “The 24-year-old Kiwi went into this season, his fifth with the Oklahoma City Thunder, as the fourth option on offense, with the team acquiring two All-Star forwards in Paul George and Carmelo Anthony to play alongside guard and reigning MVP Russell Westbrook. Yet, Adams’ game has taken big strides this season. The big Kiwi averages more points, rebounds, steals, blocks and minutes per game than he did in the 2016-17 season and his offensive rating (team points per 100 possession with him on the court) has improved by 12 points to 126. At the same time, his defensive rating (opponent’s points per 100 possessions) has not suffered, remaining at 107.”

Marcus Hayes (Philly Inquirer) on Thunder assistant Mo Cheeks being elected to the hall of fame: “Cheeks, a Thunder assistant coach, ignored the call. The 2018 class was stacked with point guard finalists such as Jason Kidd and Steve Nash, so Cheeks figured the call wasn’t urgent. “This is my third time. I recognized the 413 area code,” Cheeks said. “I just waited until practice was over to check my phone.” He listened to the message as he walked across the gym floor to talk to Thunder head coach Billy Donovan and general manager Sam Presti, but as Cheeks listened, he stopped thinking about the upcoming game. He just stopped, period. “I made it!” Cheeks shouted. And then? “I just kind of broke out crying,” Cheeks said.”

Around the League: Patrick McCaw is out of the hospital after a scary fall…. Coach Pop is unsure of when Kawhi Leonard will return for the Spurs…. Tracking injuries that will impact the postseason…. Hassan Whiteside was fined after going on a rant about his playing time…. John Wall returned for the Wizards…. The Nuggets shocked the Bucks last night in a game fit for April Fools.