4 min read

Monday Bolts: 4.23.18

Nick Gallo previews tonight’s Game 4 in Utah: “Down 2-1 in this first round Western Conference battle with the Jazz, the Thunder is approaching Game 4 with balance. There’s an understanding of how vital this game is to keeping the season alive and regaining homecourt advantage. Yet there’s also a need to keep an even keel and maintain the looseness required to play freely. That flow, however, is exactly what the Thunder is determined to take away from the Jazz, and it starts at the point of attack at the top of the key. “We gotta control the ball more,” forward Carmelo Anthony said. “We’re letting them free flow a little bit offensively. When they have the ball, they get into the teeth of the defense and it breaks everything down from there. So I think once we get control of the ball and then from there we’re back to our principles on the defensive end.”

Royce Young on Russell Westbrook promising better defense on Ricky Rubio: “Rubio sparked a 20-4 run in the first half to overcome a 12-point deficit, hitting a flurry of midrange jumpers as the Thunder sagged off the point guard. But Oklahoma City counterpart Russell Westbrook defiantly proclaimed there will be no more of that in Game 4 on Monday in Salt Lake City. “He made some shots,” Westbrook said. “Too comfortable. But I’m gonna shut that s— off next game though. Guarantee that.”

Berry Tramel & Erik Horne on the good and bad of OKC’s small-ball lineup: “After a rocky minute-and-a-half, the lineup with Patterson at center and five players on the perimeter on offense tied the game 20-20 on some quality ball movement and a 4-of-4 shooting stretch. The lineup of Anthony, Corey Brewer, Paul George, Patterson and Russell Westbrook played 10 minutes, the most of any Thunder lineup on Saturday. It was eventually outscored by 47.8 points per 100 possessions and only pulled down 28.6 percent of available rebounds. The rebounding sacrifice was a given considering the five-out strategy. The problem wasn’t from 3-point range (3-of-8), with Patterson hitting threes on consecutive possessions, but turnovers. The small-ball lineup had four turnovers in 10 minutes together.”

Kyle Goon (Salt Lake Tribune) on Rudy Gobert being ready for the Thunder going small: “The key to Oklahoma City’s offensive success in this series has never been a secret: The Thunder want to get Rudy Gobert away from the basket. The latest manifestation of that goal — a small-ball lineup with Patrick Patterson at center — caught the Jazz off-guard on Saturday night, leading to a Thunder rally that had them up midway through the second quarter. There are times to play matchups in playoff series. But don’t expect the Jazz to yank Gobert just because the Thunder are going small — especially if that resolves the way it did in Game 3. Utah’s candidate for Defensive Player of the Year has been tested and is going to continue to be tested at the perimeter.”

Konata Edwards (Dime Mag) on Billy Donovan voicing displeasure with the way Steven Adams is being officiated: “During Sunday afternoon shootaround, Billy Donovan spoke on Adams’ minutes reduction. The Thunder head coach put a microscope on the foul trouble Adams has been in for the entire series. While Donovan might not have blame the refs outright, there was a clear focus on what Donovan saw as inconsistent whistles. “This whole year, there’s never been two games in a row that Steven Adams has been in foul trouble,” Donovan said. “That’s never happened. Obviously, it’s a physical game. The officials have got a hard job in terms of trying to draw a line of what’s excessive and what’s not. And he’s been, to be quite honest, on a difficult end the last two games with some of those fouls.”

Tony Jones (Salt Lake Tribune) on the Thunder’s must-win Game 4: “On Sunday, players and coaches backed Westbrook’s bold talk from Saturday night. They are still a loose and confident group. Practice ended with a 3-point shooting contest, featuring Adams, Josh Huestis, Anthony and even assistant coach Royal Ivey. But they know that confidence has to yield results in Game 4. And they know their pathway to a win has to be through Westbrook. “I condone it,” Anthony said of Westbrook’s comments. “When you have somebody who’s that focused, regardless of how he said it or what he said, he’s serious about it. And when you have your leader taking that stance, then everyone else has to fall in line. We have to do our part. So, we’ll be ready tomorrow.”

Bill Haisten (Tulsa World) on the Thunder being doomed in Game 4 if Westbrook doesn’t improve: “In four series, Oklahoma City had a three-games-to-one deficit. The Thunder was eliminated in each of those series (by Houston in last year’s first round, by Memphis in 2013, by Miami in the 2012 NBA Finals and by Dallas in the 2011 Western Conference finals). Westbrook is a veteran of 90 playoff games and has a career postseason scoring average of 25.1 points. Before this season, the 27-year-old Rubio had never experienced a playoff game. His regular-season scoring average was 13.1 points. If Westbrook doesn’t overwhelm Rubio in Game 4, it would result in more problems for the Thunder. If there is another defeat on Monday night, OKC is in big trouble.”

Royce Young on the “normal” life of Steven Adams: “He loves anime, particularly a show called “One Piece.” He adores the Oklahoma City Zoo, raising his voice almost to a squeal to talk about the time he got to pet an elephant. And he really loves video games. “I could play 10 hours straight when I was a kid,” Adams says. “I’d just be at home anyway, go help my dad or whatever, stack firewood, chop down a tree or some s—, but after that, I was just like, ‘Oh yeah!’ and game the rest of the day.” At the moment, Adams is known for being quite good at “Fortnite,” the current video game of choice among NBA players. At first mention of it, Adams belts out, “Really good, fam!”

Around the League: The Cavs and Pacers are tied 2-2…. So are the Bucks and Celtics…. As are the Wizards and Raptors…. San Antonio avoided getting swept by the Warriors…. The T-Wolves and Rockets series looks like it could get interesting…. Looking at the Pelicans’ sweep of Portland…. Philly is up 3-1 on Miami…. Potential Kawhi Leonard trades.