Royce Young on the Thunder discovering its flow against Utah: “Against the Jazz on Wednesday, the Thunder finally flexed for the first time in almost a month, blowing Utah out 107-79. It started with a tone-setting first quarter from Westbrook on both ends, with him hitting his first six shots, while also decimating Utah’s offense with ball-hawking and second and third efforts on defense. The defense finally turned to offense, and the Thunder went above .500 for the first time since Halloween.”
Nick Gallo recaps last night’s win: “Paul George rifled a skip pass over the top of the Utah Jazz defense into the right corner, and two more quick passes as the defenders converged got the ball back around to the top of the key, in to the hands of Russell Westbrook. There was a fraction of a second of hesitation, and Anthony instinctively shouted, “one more!” Westbrook snapped into action, zipping a pass to George who was back in the left corner that resulted in an open three-pointer that splashed through the net.”
Tom Ley (Deadspin) on the Thunder finally cutting loose: “There’s been plenty of handwringing about the Thunder’s need to share the ball and commit themselves to some sort of Spursian motion offense if they ever want to become a great team. Maybe that’s true, but first it would be nice to just see some of the great basketball players on this roster be great for a bit, even on their own terms. Last night felt like a start.”
Moke Hamilton (USA Today) on Paul George losing weight to play with Westbrook: “I definitely felt I was heavy, I felt I wasn’t moving as well. To run with Russ, you have to be in some good shape,” George said. “I found that out early. I changed my diet, [do] a little more cardio. I’m able to move, I’m able to slide my feet defensively and get back to bringing that defense.”
Katie Baker (Ringer) on the inescapable pull of Carmelo Anthony: “Everyone compares the day-to-day iteration of him, unfavorably, to a more popular and successful alter ego who only comes around once every four years. He is a frequent enough butt of jokes, and a constant enough target of scrutiny and resentment, that by now it wouldn’t be surprising if he’d grown hardened and bitter. But Anthony still comes across as remarkably undeterred, the kind of guy whose essence isn’t really too far off from a Eugene Levy character. It must be why, against my better judgment, I love the lug.”
Adam Fromal (B/R) has one trade for every fringe playoff team: “Oklahoma City Thunder Get: Marco Belinelli / Atlanta Hawks Get: Alex Abrines, Terrance Ferguson… OKC’s desire to incorporate Belinelli should be obvious. The Thunder rank No. 24 in offensive rating, No. 15 in three-point attempts per game and No. 26 in three-point percentage—all strong indications they could use another floor-spacing option to make life easier, both when driving and playing kick-out basketball, for the marquee names.”
Aaron Mansfield (Complex) on Russell Westbrook’s Christmas giving: “It’s an unfortunate reality: many people do not have the luxury of spending the holiday season in a warm environment, much less receiving any gifts. Star athletes are uniquely positioned to champion social causes, and reigning NBA MVP Russell Westbrook is taking advantage of his position to challenge homelessness. On Tuesday, Westbrook hosted his sixth annual Christmas Party in Oklahoma City. The focus of the event is providing gifts to homeless children in Oklahoma.”
Around the League: A semi-truck drove into Evan Turner’s swimming pool…. LaVar Ball is starting his own basketball league for high school graduates…. Kobe’s jersey retirement netted $824,000 in jersey sales…. Kyle Kuzma and the Lakers ended the Rockets winning streak.