Erik Horne: “Russell Westbrook said in order to keep its pace this season, the Thunder
needed defense. He was right, particularly against Milwaukee on Monday. But in the Thunder’s 98-94 loss to Bucks, it was his offense that couldn’t keep up with OKC’s late defensive stands. With his shot failing him in the second half, Westbrook stripped Jabari Parker and dove to the floor for the loose ball, calling timeout. He bought the Thunder a final offensive possession with 14.2 seconds left, the Thunder trailing 96-94. Westbrook didn’t even get a chance to come up clutch.”
NBA.com ranks OKC sixth: “Two nights after he got ejected (with zero assists and six turnovers) in the third quarter in Memphis, Russell Westbrook made sure he had a triple-double by halftime against the Clippers. Throw away the loss to the Grizzlies and the Thunder have played their best offensive basketball of the season, scoring 117 points per 100 possessions in their other seven games since mid-December. And most of that was without Victor Oladipo, who returned on Saturday. We’ll see if that continues as they play the league’s toughest January schedule, both in regard to opponent strength (nine of the 15 opponents are at or above .500) and home-road ratio (3/12).”
ESPN.com has OKC eighth: “The final week of 2016 made the MVP duel between former teammates Westbrook and Harden even tastier. And here’s how: While Harden was assembling what might just have been the most delicious single-game stat line in the history of fantasy hoops, Angry Russ uncorked the fastest triple-double of his career as the Thunder brought the calendar year to a close by improving to 21-13 … which happens to equate to a 52-win pace. OKC’s schedule is about to get seriously tougher, with 12 of its 15 games in January on the road, but Westbrook’s MVP résumé looks infinitely better if these guys finish in the 50s win-wise.”
Westbrook didn’t mock Aaron Rodgers. He messed with Steve Novak.
Resolutions from Brett Dawson and Erik Horne: “Cameron Payne. Defend. Payne will create and score. His health is somewhat out of his hands. But he can defend better than his rookie season (team-low 107.1 defensive rating among rotation players). Andre Roberson. Finish up close. Roberson isn’t a great shooter, but he’s scoring on 79.3 percent (23-of-29) of his field goal attempts on cuts, seventh in the NBA. Domantas Sabonis. Score in pick-and-roll. Sabonis seals off his defender well on rolls to the rim. He gets open spot-up jumpers. He just needs to make more (40.8 FG percentage).”
John Schuhmann of NBA.com: “The Thunder actually play the league’s toughest January schedule in more ways than one. First, their January opponents have a cumulative winning percentage of .565, the highest mark of any team’s opponents this month. Second, they have the most road-heavy January schedule, with only three of their 15 games at Chesapeake Energy Arena. And one of the Thunder’s three January home games is the second game of a back-to-back. Their opponent (Dallas) will also be playing the second game of a back-to-back that night, but the Thunder don’t have any January games with a rest advantage, where their opponent played the night before and they didn’t. They do have two games (against the Rockets and Clippers) with a rest disadvantage.”
CBSSports.com has OKC eighth: “OKC has won six of its last eight, five of those by double-digits. They’re beating teams they should, and comfortably. That’s a big step forward and shows that the Thunder are better than most gave them credit for in the preseason. They slip here because of how other teams have played, but they’re basically tied with Boston and Memphis, all of whom have beaten one another in the past two weeks.”