Nick Gallo recaps last night’s win over the Denver Nuggets: “The two teams traded a pair of stops, and then Harris managed to wiggle in under the rim for a very tough layup. Westbrook missed at the rim on the next possession, but got a chance at redemption by picking up the ball after a clutch Paul George steal and taking it the length of the court for a layup to tie it at 94 with 1:48 to go. No one scored again until 2.3 seconds remained, when Westbrook nearly lost the ball on a drive but gathered and was slapped across the arm under the backboard. The Thunder point guard went to the line and knocked down one free throw, finishing out a 38-point effort on 16-for-28 shooting to go with nine rebounds, six assists, three steals and a block. 16 of Westbrook’s points came in the fourth quarter alone, when he went 7-of-12 from the floor and scored 14 of the Thunder’s 16 final points.”
Fred Katz on how Russell Westbrook went 2016-17 to lead OKC to victory: “The Oklahoma City Thunder had let go of a 15-point lead to fall down as much as 10 during the fourth. Paul George, who finished with eight points on 3 of 13 shooting, couldn’t find a rhythm. Carmelo Anthony, who scored just four points on 2 of 6 shooting, simply wasn’t involved. So, Westbrook went into the mode he showed off for much of last season, when he broke records for ball dominance. He attempted 12 shots during the fourth, sinking seven of them and chucking them up from all over. From 3, from midrange, at the rim, contested, open. It didn’t seem to matter. He finished with one of his most impressive lines of the season: 38 points, nine rebounds and six assists on 16 of 28 shooting. He scored 16 in the final period. The paint is where he made his final difference, drawing a foul to send him to the line with two seconds remaining, splashing in one of two free throws to seal a 95-94 victory.”
Royce Young on Carmelo Anthony’s quiet night: “Anthony has repeatedly talked this season about “sacrifice” as he adjusts to playing in a complementary offensive role. Against the Nuggets, Anthony took only two shots in the second half, missing both, including a wide-open spot-up 3-pointer in the fourth. “A lot of times, my man is not leaving me,” Anthony said. “Opposing teams, coaches’ defensive schemes is telling them to always keep a body on me. … As a result of that, me being a decoy opens it up for a lot of people.”
Berry Tramel on how press row helped the Thunder beat Denver: “The Thunder beat Denver 95-94 Monday night to get back to .500. The Thunder won by the slimmest of margins. And I don’t mean just one point. I mean by the length of Gary Harris’ big toe. The Nuggets sharpshooter hit a jumper with 8:06 left in the game that should have given Denver an 85-79 lead. But referee Ken Mauer halfheartedly put his hand up to signal a 3-pointer. So the scoreboard read 86-79. I knew it wasn’t a 3-pointer. My angle on the row behind the scorer’s table was perfect to see Harris’ foot, and his Nike most definitely was on the line. I was so sure, I wrote down 85-79 on my scoresheet, for sure the officials would check it later and correct the error. But I told the Thunder PR staff they ought to have it checked, and director Matt Tumbleson alerted the Thunder bench.”
Brett Dawson on Paul George stepping up defensively while struggling on offense: “Paul George’s shot looked uncertain, his drives indecisive. He played 39 minutes in the Thunder’s 95-94 win against the Nuggets Monday night at Chesapeake Energy Arena and never found his offensive rhythm. But as Oklahoma City rallied to win in the fourth, George found a way to put a stamp on the game. George played every second of the fourth quarter and had four of his six rebounds, two of his three steals and one of his two blocked shots in the period.”
Ken Berger (B/R) on if OKC’s struggles will lead to a Paul George trade: “It’s a three-man circus,” a Western Conference executive told Bleacher Report. “They don’t play well together. There’s no ball movement, no chemistry. You can tell by watching them play, it’s out of sync. There’s no rhyme or rhythm to how they play.” No joy, either. “George has got to be frustrated,” the executive said. “You can tell by the way he’s playing. He’s not playing with any enthusiasm, not playing with any spunk. He’s kind of playing like a second or third wheel out there.”
Jared Kungle (8 Points, 9 Seconds) on what Victor Oladipo learned from Russell Westbrook: “One thing I learned from him (Russ) is he’s on 110 every day. The thing about me is that he’s on 110, I’m trying to get to 115. That’s something he kinda instilled in me without doing anything. Just being himself and that’s how I am here.”
Around the League: A night of reminiscing at Kobe’s jersey retirement…. Houston has now won 14 in a row…. The Pacers found a heartbreaking way to lose…. KD hit a game-winner over Lonzo Ball… Full Monday night NBA recap.