5 min read

Thursday Bolts: 3.14.19

Nick Gallo (okcthunder.com) recaps last night’s win over the Nets: “Behind Westbrook’s combination of speed and smarts, the Thunder’s offense kicked into gear in the second half, scoring 66 points on 49 percent shooting with 15 assists compared to just 2 turnovers. In the first half, those numbers were flipped, just 42 points on 35.6 percent shooting (8-for-22 in the paint and 4-for-14 from midrange) with 10 turnovers as the Thunder was stuck taking tough, contested shots against a set Nets defense. Clogging the lane in both man-to-man and zone, Brooklyn was stifling until Westbrook and Donovan cracked the code. “We opened up the third quarter and really took the game away, took the game over at that point,” said forward Paul George. Against the zone, the Thunder flashed George into the middle of the floor on gut cuts and got secondary action off cuts from wings like rookie Deonte Burton, who was in the rotation for an injured Markieff Morris. Finding holes in the zone and continuing to put pressure on the rim helped the Thunder be more efficient, and also made rotations to the perimeter longer and more hesitant for Brooklyn. Driving, kicking, then driving again off of those closeouts was a key to busting up the zone.”

Russell Westbrook had himself a night:

Maddie Lee (Oklahoman) on Deonte Burton entering the Thunder lineup against the Nets: “Thunder forward Markieff Morris (neck soreness) was listed as questionable leading into the game, and about an hour and a half before tip-off, Thunder coach Billy Donovan said he was waiting on an update before saying whether he would play or not. In the end, Morris was ruled out. Donovan played Burton instead of Patrick Patterson, who played in the second half Monday at Utah after Morris left the game with neck soreness… Burton, who finished the night with seven points on seven shots, settled in defensively in the third quarter. After missing a shot with about three minutes left in the third quarter, Burton hustled back to defend LeVert. He stayed in between him and the basket as he drove to the basket, giving Nerlens Noel time to slide over and help.”

Thunder/Nets highlights:

Royce Young (ESPN) on Westbrook not being interested in discussing the fan incident in Utah: “Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook declined to share any thoughts Wednesday about the Utah Jazz issuing a lifetime ban to fan Shane Keisel for the incident that occurred during Monday night’s game. “If you want to talk about tonight’s game, we can do it,” Westbrook said when asked his reaction. “If not, enjoy your night.” Westbrook was fined $25,000 by the NBA for “directing profanity and threatening language to a fan.” The Thunder did not practice Tuesday, and did not hold a morning shootaround Wednesday. In the locker room before Wednesday’s game against the Brooklyn Nets was the first time Westbrook had officially been available, but he declined to talk. (By rule, Westbrook is required to be available at least once on game day before tipoff, whether at shootaround or in the locker room pregame.)”

Dan Devine (Ringer) on if any solutions will come from the Westbrook / fan fiasco: “It’s inarguably good that, in this instance, actions had consequences: Yell demeaning, racist stuff, and, at a minimum, you don’t get to watch Donovan Mitchell play up close anymore. Yet the ban happened only after the fact; in the moment, security handed Keisel and a few other fans “warning cards” informing them that their conduct had crossed a line, but they were allowed to return to their seats, and nobody got ejected. And it happened in large part because our man Keisel was all too eager to proclaim his blamelessness with the bulletproof confidence of the “What are you gonna do, stab me?” guy. A common theme has emerged in the aftermath of the incident, one specifically raised by Westbrook, Patterson, and Felton, and echoed by Jazz players like Mitchell, Rudy Gobert, and Thabo Sefolosha: that the NBA needs to do more to protect players from overzealous fans who overstep their bounds, whether physically or verbally. But how much can the league do to protect players in the moment when hundreds of fans are within shouting distance of the court? What makes it hard to believe that anything’s going to change here is that, despite the Jazz’s welcome rejoinder that personal attacks and disrespect have no place in our game, we know that’s not true. This wasn’t an isolated incident; this stuff happens.”

Jim Ayello (Indy Star) previews tonight’s Thunder @ Pacers match-up: “Hard to call it a homecoming when so much has changed. It’s been less than two years since the last time Paul George wore an Indiana Pacers uniform, yet when the ex-face of the franchise returns Thursday for his just his second game at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in an Oklahoma City Thunder uniform, the Pacers team that greets him will be largely unrecognizable to him. Gone are Jeff Teague, Lance Stephenson, Al Jefferson, C.J. Miles, Monta Ellis, Rodney Stuckey, Glenn Robinson and so many others. In fact, only two players remain from George’s last Pacers team: Myles Turner and Thaddeus Young. Strange to think about how much has changed since George demanded his way out of Indiana two years ago. The Pacers have a new face of the franchise (Victor Oladipo) and an almost entirely new supporting cast.”

Mark Montieth (Pacers.com) on changing being good for both Paul George and the Pacers: “The point is that the memory of George’s last season as a Pacer is quickly fading in the rear-view mirror, and his return to The Fieldhouse won’t bring the same emotions as last season, when bitter fans made clear their feelings on his decision to have his agent request a trade. Time isn’t the only factor healing those wounds. The deal that exchanged George for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis is still widely regarded as favorable for the Pacers despite Oladipo’s season-ending injury. Besides, George is thriving in OKC, a legitimate league MVP candidate who is playing better than at any other time in his nine-season NBA career. There’s not much a betrayed fan can say. George is clearly thriving in his new environment, to which he recommitted by signing a contract extension over the summer, thus surprising everyone who assumed he would join the LeBron Lakers. Playing alongside Russell Westbrook fits for him, although his stats aren’t as dramatically better than in his final season with the Pacers as people might assume. Compare his performance with the Pacers two seasons ago to now and the primary difference is his scoring average. He takes four more shots per game now, a primary reflection of OKC’s faster pace of play, which also boosts his other numbers.”

Around the League: The KD-less Warriors beat the Rockets…. Klay Thompson is sorry, Warriors fans…. Is LeBron’s run of All-NBA firs team selections coming to an end?…. James Dolan is the Knicks of NBA owners…. It’s time the NBA protects players from hate speech…. Recapping last night’s NBA action…. Amare Stoudemire is now an Israeli citizen…. Daryl Morey signed an extension with the Rockets…. LeBron’s quest to be the GOAT won’t allow him to give away games.