Monday Bolts – 5.16.16
David Thorpe of ESPN has Russ and KD tied for playoff MVP: “The wide pin-down that
Durant comes off to shoot his short curl jumper is pretty unstoppable, and the Thunder use it whenever they just have to get a good look. But what helped Durant so much in this series was his aggressive and athletic rim attacks. This was the MVP Durant. He combines skill and craft with athleticism on that tall and long frame. Durant poured in 78 points on 49 shots in the Thunder’s past two home wins, all against one of the best defenses in NBA history. And now, to beat the Warriors, every Thunder player has to genuinely believe they can, a process far more possible when they saw Durant do what he did to the Spurs.”
Andrew Schlecht for Vantage on Kanter’s defense: “The only stats that are better from the regular season are his blocks and marginally his TO Forced. Those have been impactful and noticeable to the common fan. He looks like a better defender when he blocks shots. But he was actually better overall in the regular season. His defensive activity rate was higher, he has a lower Points Against per Shot, he denied more passes, and he fouled less. My point is that he has been this player all season. He has been an excellent addition to the Thunder bench and a clear Sixth Man of the Year candidate. The big test for Kanter has been elite teams and the playoffs, and he’s passed the test so far against the historic San Antonio Spurs. He’s been more than “playable”; he’s been key to the Thunder closing games. Donovan is playing to Kanter’s strengths, and it is paying off well for Sam Presti and the Thunder.”
Ethan Strauss of ESPN.com: “In three games against the Warriors, the Thunder rebounded 29 percent of their misses for 45 total second-chance points. That outcome isn’t shocking, considering Oklahoma City is, by a fair margin, the best offensive rebounding team in basketball. Apart from Westbrook’s flying forays into the paint and Durant’s unheralded glass work, the Thunder boast two players, Adams and Kanter, who rank top 10 in offensive rebounding percentage. Their offensive glasswork is augmented by Durant and Westbrook driving for the kinds of close-in shots that make for easier cutbacks.”
Series preview from Mr. Presti’s Neighborhood.
ESPN Stats and Info: “If slowing Curry down is priority No. 1, then priority No. 1a is probably making sure that Adams and Serge Ibaka are in the game. When the two of them are on the floor, the Thunder defense is the best in the league at protecting the paint, with a qSI in the paint of minus-4.1. To give that some context, the Warriors would be second in the league with a qSI of minus-2.8. Without those two on the floor, however, the Thunder struggle to defend the paint, allowing shooters a qSI of plus-1.2 — which would be the worst in the league. Keeping them both on the floor will be a challenge given the Warriors’ ability to create mismatches with their small lineups, but if the big guys can keep up, then the Thunder have a chance to bring the Warriors’ offense a little bit closer to earth.”
Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN.com in a 5-on-5: “Didn’t see that coming. It’s easy to forget that when the Thunder are engaged, they can be an incredibly effective defensive unit — quick hands and tree branches everywhere the offense tries to move in the half court. With Adams and Andre Roberson on the floor together, it’s devastating inside and out.”
Sam Amick of USA Today: “Donovan was hired to help the Thunder grow, to evolve, and to eventually guide them toward the championship that has seemed possible ever since Durant and Westbrook blossomed into the league’s most dynamic duo. But to see it all come together so quickly, with Donovan’s Thunder downing Rick Carlisle’s Dallas Mavericks in a five-game first-round series win only to stun a Spurs team that won a franchise-record 67 games during the regular season, is something that few saw coming. And Donovan is doing his part in his NBA playoff debut.”
Anthony Slater: “Donovan is likely to try a similar tactic in this series. Kerr is likely to be ready for it. OKC knows the Warriors want to go small. Golden State knows the Thunder want to stay big. Which just adds another layer to this must-see matchup, which tips off Monday in Oakland.”
Berry Tramel: “Despite what you might have seen or heard, the Warriors do not wake up hot. They do not sink 80 percent of their 3-pointers. They go through long stretches of cold spells. But they warm up. They always warm up. They are like Baylor football; the Bears might have 10 points with four minutes left in the first half, then have 31 points by halftime. The Thunder must weather such flurries. And more importantly, not try to match the Warriors. That means you, Russell Westbrook. And even you, Kevin Durant. The prideful Thunder stars are as macho as the next superstar. When Curry and Thompson and Green ignite Golden State fireworks, there’s a tendency to want to replicate their feats. Fall to that temptation, and the Thunder can’t survive.”
Matt Moore of CBSSports.com: “Are there things we at least feel like the Thunder can exploit offensively? I feel like they should be able to attack the rim. The Warriors clog it, but with the attention they have to pay on the perimeter, there will be chances. Finishing at the rim is going to be so, so important throughout this series for OKC. Not just for Westbrook, who struggled but eventually adjusted vs. San Antonio, but for Waiters and those guys as well.”
Apologies on the late Bolts. The West Coast is hard.