Nick Gallo (okcthunder.com) recaps last night’s 107-100 win over the Lakers: “After halftime, however, the shots just wouldn’t fall for anyone on the Thunder, most of all Westbrook who ended up just 2-for-18 from the field after three quarters. The Thunder as a whole went just 5-for-23 in the third, getting outscored by 6 in the period by a Lakers squad whose reserves made timely buckets late in the quarter. Maybe they took the Lakers’ small burst to end the third as a challenge, but the Thunder’s reserves delivered an even more potent counterpunch to start the final frame. Starting with an Abdel Nader to Nerlens Noel bucket and continuing through a catch and shoot three by Nader and a floater by Dennis Schröder, the Thunder’s second unit was absolutely dominant in the fourth quarter and set the Thunder’s starters up with the momentum they needed to close out the win.”
This is fine: Westbrook’s field goal percentage is now at 41.6 percent after his 3-of-20 effort last night in LA. 23.6 percent from three. 62.6 percent from the free throw line.
Royce Young (ESPN) on Paul George overcoming boos in LA to deliver the Thunder a win: “If he held any animosity, or extra motivation, he reserved it all for the court. He finished with 37 points on 15-of-29 shooting, plus four steals and his standard lockdown defense. As the Lakers hung tight, George was the tip of the dagger: When he checked back in with 5 minutes, 13 seconds left in the fourth quarter, Oklahoma City led by three. Over the next three minutes, he scored nine points on 3-of-3 shooting to the Lakers’ four points on 1-of-5. That was the game as OKC rolled on from there, 107-100. There were signs it meant a little something more, such as when George picked up a technical for slapping the backboard emphatically after a first-half dunk. Though George does that often, he hadn’t been called for a technical on it yet this season.”
PG13 discusses the salty reaction from Lakers fans:
Dan Woike (LA Times) on George having no regrets about his decision to remain in OKC: “All he had to do was to show up, to do what he thought he wanted. All of it could’ve been his had he signed with the Lakers. Instead, that night, George ran onto the court in front of a filled arena that had been waiting months to boo him. A year ago, Lakers fans cheered every time he touched the ball to show George how much they wanted him to sign in free agency. Wednesday, they cheered when he botched a pick-and-roll with center Steven Adams, missed three-pointers and committed three early fouls, showing him how upset they were that he instead picked the Oklahoma City Thunder. What makes George’s story unique is that he picked Oklahoma City. And he did it at a time where executives are bracing for New Orleans’ Anthony Davis and Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo to head to bigger markets like New York or Los Angeles because that’s what superstar players do. They leave.”
Shaun Powell (NBA.com) on George enjoying his best season yet: “This is reflected mostly through the play of George, who’s rolling better than he did on any of those fine Pacers teams, better than he did pre-leg injury, better than he did during a fluid-but-not-unforgettable first season in OKC. You could even make a case for giving George a seat at the early Kia MVP roundtable, because 26.4 points (remarkable on a team with Westbrook), 8.2 rebounds (tremendous for a small forward), 4.1 assists and 2.2 steals a game demand that level of respect. It’s possible George is reaching his career peak here at 28, which means the timing is right for he and OKC. For years, George was a level below the NBA’s heavyweights (and still might be), but his first season as a $30 million player isn’t giving OKC any buyer’s remorse. He may even earn a spot on the 2018-19 All-NBA team.”
Grant Hughes (B/R) picks the toughest players to trade on every roster: Andre Roberson: If we more realistically assume Roberson is a normal human being and doesn’t bounce right back to peak health after over a year away from the game, it gets even harder to imagine a team dealing for his contract before the deadline. Nobody wants to be on the hook for $10.7 million in 2019-20 when there’s no way to be sure the guy collecting it will still be a viable NBA player. If Dennis Schroder had flopped in his first year with OKC, we’d have more of a debate. But Roberson’s shooting limitations, health and salary make him the unfortunate, easy selection.”
Dylan Hernandez (LA Times) on Billy Donovan and the vacant head coaching position at UCLA: “While some prominent alumni have started advocating for former Bruins point guard Earl Watson, the school’s fantasy appointment remains Billy Donovan, the architect of the Florida program that won consecutive national championships in 2006 and 2007. Two days after Alford’s dismissal, Donovan happened to be in Los Angeles, about 10 miles from Pauley Pavilion. He wasn’t here to stump for the UCLA post, but to coach his Oklahoma City Thunder against the Lakers at Staples Center. Donovan said pretty much what would be expected from a coach under contract. “We have a great group of guys and I’ve enjoyed, really, working with these guys each and every day,” he said. “My focus is totally on the Thunder right now.”
Michael Scotto (Athletic) with a New Year’s resolution for the Thunder: “Improve the team’s shooting. Oklahoma City is tied for the league’s lowest 3-point percentage with the Pistons (.324) and has the league’s third-lowest free throw percentage (.703). Through the first half of the season, Russell Westbrook (.242), Patrick Patterson (.307), Alex Abrines (.323) and Raymond Felton (.200) are shooting below their career averages from 3-point range while taking at least two threes per game. If those players can’t break out of their first-half shooting slumps from beyond the arc, Oklahoma City will have to consider exploring the trade market to upgrade their shooting woes.”
Russell Westbrook’s new spot for the Jordan Why Not Zer0.2:
Kicks on Fire with everything you need to know about the Why Not Zer0.2: “The lead colorway of the Why Not Zer0.2, dubbed “Future History,” features vibrant color-blocking on different performance materials. At first glance the design may seem random, but each color is meant to reference a uniform that has helped define Westbrook’s career. “Every colorway has a meaning behind it that is special to me,” says Westbrook. “With the Why Not Zer0.2, I wanted to take that storytelling to the next level with an exposed tag that helps illustrate the meaning behind the colors used.”
Around the League: Why Toronto believes Kawhi Leonard will stay…. Gordon Hayward dropped a season-high 35 points last night…. Anthony Davis says “everyone is frustrated” in New Orleans…. Recapping last night’s NBA action…. Garrett Temple and Omri Casspi got physical in the Grizzlies’ locker room…. Getting familiar with next season’s rookies.