4 min read

Tuesday Bolts: 1.22.19

Nick Gallo (okcthunder.com) recaps yesterday’s win over the Knicks: “The emphatic thump emanating from the microphone inside the Thunder’s basket provided the steady baseline for the afternoon. Jump shot after jump shot crashed through the net, and the Thunder ran away with a 127-109 road victory over the New York Knicks. In an early 12:30 p.m. ET tip off, whichever team brought the best energy and delivered the first punch was going to greatly increase their chances of victory. Traditionally speaking, these early start times can often make games a toss-up, but the Thunder’s superior effort, talent and shot-making won the day right from the very start. It wasn’t a perfect effort from the second through fourth quarters, but the Knicks never seriously threatened at any point as it celebrated Dr. Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. on his holiday.”

Alex Wolfe (Posting & Toasting) recaps the game from the other side: “There was a basketball game this afternoon. Luckily for us, today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, so you’d be forgiven for just taking today to study MLK’s preachings and perhaps trying to find some life lessons to apply to today in these trying times in America. But the basketball part, it’s tradition! And it’s also been a tradition in recent years for the Knicks to catch an L on MLK Day (outside of last year, when the Grammys kicked them out of MSG, the team was 2-5 in its last seven MLK matinees). Today wasn’t really any different, and the Knicks lost, 127-109. The Knicks got run off the floor in the first quarter, when the Thunder doubled them up plus two, 34-16. The starting lineup of Emmanuel Mudiay, Kevin Knox, Tim Hardaway Jr., Noah Vonlehand Luke Kornet really had their lunch eaten early on. The Knicks managed to keep it around a 20-point deficit most of the rest of the way, but the damage was done early.”

Michael Shapiro (SI) on OKC returning to form behind a more calculated Russell Westbrook: “Westbrook continued to stuff the stat sheet on Monday afternoon. He registered five rebounds and five assists in the first 18 minutes and didn’t score until he converted a free throw with 6:20 remaining in the second quarter. Westbrook still made an impact on the first half, registering a trio of deflections and a charge while defending Knicks big man Noah Vonleh. Westbrook ended his night with nine assists as he fell just short of his 14th triple-double of the season. Add in 31 points from George, and the Thunder fired on all cylinders in their second-straight road win. There’s no guarantee Westbrook’s evolution sticks around in the postseason. Game 6 of the Thunder’s first-round exit against Utah last year featured 46 points from Westbrook on 43 shots. He emptied the chamber as George went 2-of-16 from the field. If Oklahoma City struggles to score in April, Westbrook could revert to his old ways.”

The 48: Thunder 127, Knicks 109

Brett Dawson (Athletic) on the rise of Terrance Ferguson: “He hit a critical late 3-pointer against the Sixers and played his typical tenacious defense, even when charged the arduous task of chasing sharpshooter J.J. Redick around the court and fighting over screens to defend him. You don’t go under screens on Redick. He’s too good a shooter. You can’t afford it. And Ferguson is good at getting over them. But he was finding it hard to do so many times on Saturday. And then Paul George blew his mind. George suggested that Ferguson fake fighting over a screen, then relent, and quickly go under. Ferguson did it, and the quick move he made after the fake let him get under the screener and meet Redick on the other side. “I was like, ‘Wow,’” Ferguson said on Monday. “I didn’t expect it, but I met him right in front, and he couldn’t get a shot off. I looked at PG like, ‘Man, you really know your stuff.’” That’s the stuff Ferguson is learning.”

Sekou Smith (NBA.com) had a Q-&-A with Paul George: “Listen, life has been good. I’ve got two little ones and a beautiful woman at home. I’m close with my teammates here. I’m at peace, honestly. I’m at peace. All I have to do is go out there and play. I don’t have to worry about trade rumors or things like that. I don’t have to worry about contract extensions or how things are going to work out. Everything is set in stone right now and I’m really comfortable, in the best way possible. I’m relaxed in that part of my life.”

Zach Lowe (ESPN) has PG as an All-Star starter — but thinks Russell Westbrook is no lock: “Westbrook is not a lock. His shot is broken — from the beyond the arc, at the line, around the rim. On layups, he sometimes looks as if he’s blindly flinging the ball in the general direction of the backboard, hoping for a friendly bounce. It’s legitimately alarming. He has yet to regain all of his explosiveness and lift after another knee surgery. He’s also gagging away 4.5 turnovers per game, second most in the league. You can’t shoot 41 percent overall, and 24 percent from deep (not a typo), and be a no-brainer All-Star. I don’t care who you are. His improvement on defense has been a little overblown. Bad habits persist.”

Yahoo Sports previews tonight’s game against Portland: “A big part of Portland’s recent success sharing the ball is point guard Damian Lillard. He is averaging 25 points and eight assists over the last two games. The Blazers produced 30 assists to the Thunder’s 18 in the teams’ first meeting of the season, on Jan. 4 in Portland, but Oklahoma City emerged with a 111-109 victory. Paul George scored 37 points, and Russell Westbrook added 31 points. For much of the season, the Thunder has struggled from behind the 3-point arc, including shooting just 32 percent (8 of 25) in the first meeting with Portland. Lately, though, Oklahoma City has shown signs of turning those struggles around. Over the past six games, the Thunder are shooting 41.2 percent from behind the arc, averaging 14 makes per game. They sank 15 of 29 (51.7 percent) of their 3-point tries Monday in a 127-109 road win over the New York Knicks.”

Around the League: Carmelo Anthony was traded to Chicago…. James Harden has scored 30+ in 20 straight games…. Klay Thompson went 10-of-10 from deep in last night’s win over the Lakers…. Luka Doncic recorded his first career triple-double…. Recapping yesterday’s MLK Day NBA action…. Landing spots for the league’s top trade candidates.