Nick Gallo previews tonight’s Thunder/Nets match-up: “The Thunder has done better recently against the types of teams that have given it problems earlier in the season, sub-.500 clubs who have snuck up to get wins against Oklahoma City. One such team is the Brooklyn Nets, who defeated the Thunder down in Mexico City in December. As the Thunder prepares for the rematch with Brooklyn, Head Coach Billy Donovan is getting his team to focus on what the Nets do well. In addition to ranking second in the NBA with 34.0 three-pointers attempted per game, Brooklyn plays at the fifth highest pace in the league.”
Alex Labidou (Nets.com) previews the game from the other side: “Brooklyn has a chance to get its first-ever season sweep over Oklahoma City on Tuesday, thanks to an impressive 100-95 win over the team in Mexico City on Dec. 7 – a game that was considered a Nets’ home game. The Thunder are a significantly improved team since that encounter though. Oklahoma City comes into the game riding high on a four-game winning streak and things appear to finally be clicking for Billy Donovan’s team after some early struggles.”
Zach Lowe (ESPN) picks Russell Westbrook & Paul George for All-Star reserve spots: “George squeaks in on this ballot, though the bet here is that Lillard makes the actual team over him. That would be fine. Lillard is deserving. I wish I could swap him over to the East. But I like rewarding two-way guys, and George has been perhaps the best wing defender in the league this season. He’s also averaging 21 points per game — about four fewer than Lillard — and shooting a career-best 43 percent from deep. Playing with Russ has its benefits.”
Erik Horne on Billy Donovan’s belief that the offense can improve after dropping 148 in Cleveland: “I thought we had some plays where we got the ball deep in the paint and we missed some people that were open at the 3-point line,” Donovan said Monday. “I think we can do a better job, especially with our bigs rolling, the way they were pulling across trying to take away the rim we maybe left some extra passes to the perimeter open there. The challenge now is for the Thunder to continue to build consistency on offense. OKC won’t face the league’s No. 29 defense every night, nor will it hit 14 3-pointers, the second-most it’s made all season.”
Fred Katz on the Thunder aiming for the three-seed: “The Thunder’s four-game winning streak has brought them to 26-20 on the season, fifth in the West and only two back in the loss column of the No. 4 Minnesota Timberwolves. And OKC’s has a favorable schedule leading into the break. They follow the 18-29 Nets with the 26-20 Washington Wizards at home. Then they’re at Detroit, losers of 17 of 25, which just dropped out of the Eastern Conference playoff picture. A home match against the treading .500 Philadelphia 76ers before heading to Washington and the Denver Nuggets, losers of five of seven who have also fallen out of their conference’s playoff picture, presents winnable scenarios, too.”
Jared Dubin (FanSided) breaks down OKC’s place in the Western Conference: “Overall, OKC probably has a slightly worse record than expected to this point in the season. It was likely that they’d take a while to jell, however, and that’s exactly how things played out. If the team hadn’t underperformed its point differential by three wins so far this season, they’d be just a game behind the Wolves and Spurs, and there would be a lot less talk about what’s wrong with them. They’re two games below .500 in “clutch” games this season, and that’s basically the difference between them being one game back of a home playoff spot and being where they are right now.”
Carmelo Anthony was Forbes’ pick as the most overpaid NBA player in 2018: “Anthony is on track to finish with the worst field-goal percentage of his career (.424 entering Monday) and the worst free-throw percentage of his career (.766), leaving his shooting efficiency below average for an NBA power forward. His steals and assists are also set to be career worsts (0.7 and 1.5 per game), and his rebounds are below his career average (6.0) — another subpar mark for a power forward. And for good measure: Anthony’s 17.9 points per game would be a career low, too. None of that comes close to justifying his $26,243,760 contract.”
Around the League: The Cavs weren’t happy with Kevin Love following the loss to OKC…. Is Kawhi Leonard unhappy in San Antonio?…. Kobe Bryant’s short film was nominated for an Academy Award…. JJ Barea and John Wall had a war of words last night…. KD took a verbal shot at Clint Capela…. Jason Kidd was fired as head coach of the Bucks.