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Tuesday Bolts: 1.2.18

Tuesday Bolts: 1.2.18

Patrick Patterson was fined $10,000 for criticizing the officials: “It stems from a post Patterson made on Twitter, writing Saturday: “There needs to be some kind of consequence for their downright awfulness rather than pointless apologies from their bosses. #dobetter.” The tweet comes on the heels of a blown call that cost the Thunder the game against Milwaukee on Friday night in Oklahoma City.”

Royce Young on the NBA’s competition committee looking at late-game replays: “On the heels of Giannis Antetokounmpo’s game-winning bucket, on which the Milwaukee Bucks star stepped on the baseline before finishing a dunk to beat the Oklahoma City Thunder, the NBA’s competition committee will add that type of play to the agenda for discussion at its meeting in March, league spokesman Tim Frank said Saturday. Under the current replay rules, the play was not reviewable because it did not meet the criteria to trigger a review.”

Erik Horne on the Thunder’s improved offense ahead of a trip to the West Coast: “The easiest way to dispel any doubts of progress would be to carry its offensive confidence to Los Angeles, homecomings for both George and Westbrook. Over its last 10 games, the Thunder has a Top 5 offense, scoring 111.3 points per 100 possessions, and Carmelo Anthony, George and Westbrook are 7.4 points per game better than the opposition when in the game together.”

Fred Katz on Andre Roberson, Steven Adams and Paul George all possibly make All-Defense teams: “It’s rare that three teammates make the All-Defensive Team in the same season. The most recent trio to do it was Ben Wallace, Tayshaun Prince and Chauncey Billups of the 2005-06 Detroit Pistons. What could help the Thunder, though, is that the rest of the league is going right for them, too. Many of the usual All-Defensive candidates around the NBA have had some unfortunate luck.”

Brett Dawson on how Alex Abrines’ defensive struggles are costing him opportunities: “In 1,231 minutes with Abrines off the floor this season, the Thunder is allowing 100.1 points per 100 possessions. In the 565 minutes he’s played, that number spikes to 107.1. That discrepancy can’t be attributed entirely to Abrines, and numbers can’t always quantify individual defense. But that seven-point swing is the widest for any backup player in the rotation. No other regularly used OKC bench player impacts its defensive rating by more than three points. Abrines struggles to stop the ball and to close out on shooters. Too frequently, he fouls 3-point jump shooters because he’s late to contest.”

Tom Haberstroh (B/R) chronicles Gordon Hayward’s recovery and Paul George’s role in it: “Gordon Hayward’s iPad holds 500 clips of Paul George playing basketball. His trainer (Smeathers) and Boston video coordinators put them there. None of the clips come from pre-injury George. All show George’s play following his return to the NBA after a horrific incident while playing with Team USA in 2014, in which he landed on the stanchion in Las Vegas and snapped his leg. As fate would have it, Hayward witnessed that firsthand just a few feet away on the Team USA bench. Hayward watches these clips every day for positive reinforcement, a reminder that he can do this, a reassurance of what’s possible.”

Justin Verrier (Ringer) with 10 post-Christmas questions in the Western Conference: “Are the Thunder for Real?… OKC seems to have found some self-awareness over the past few weeks and embraced an identity along the lines of a more star-powered, abrasive version of the Derrick Rose–era Bulls, but it remains to be seen how well that will play in an era of ball movement, pace, and 3-pointers. Its assist percentage, which ranks 28th overall, has sunk even lower over the past eight games; next to Westbrook, Paul George is basically a rich man’s 3-and-D wing. It wouldn’t be all that surprising, given all the talent and fedoras, to see the Thunder rip off a double-digit win streak in the near future (the defense, Melo willing, has the potential to be very good). But, for now, a team widely expected to push the Warriors won’t move the needle by finally being better than the Nuggets.”

Zach Buckley (B/R) updates every team’s title chances: “Oklahoma City Thunder: 40-1. Despite some early-season stumbles, the Thunder never lost their fear factor. There was simply too much firepower for both their offense and late-game execution not to be corrected. And since they’ve been defending at a top-five level all season, it was scary to think what could happen if (or when) the other elements clicked. The offense can still look clunky, as it’s heavy on isolations and light on ball movement. But OKC’s ceiling sits among the NBA’s highest. While the sample size is tiny, the Thunder own a 3-1 record against the Golden State Warriors, Houston Rockets and San Antonio Spurs.”

Around the League: James Harden is out at least two weeks with a hamstring strain…. DeMar DeRozan dropped 52 points last night…. Isaiah Thomas will make his season-debut tonight for the Cavs…. Joel Embiid has a sprained right hand…. Ranking the 2018 free agents.