4 min read

Tuesday Bolts: 12.4.18

Nick Gallo (okcthunder.com) recaps last night’s blowout Thunder win in Detroit: “What some could see as a happy coincidence, the Thunder sees as a mark of professionalism. Last season, third quarters were not kind to Head Coach Billy Donovan’s club. The Thunder was outscored by 1.1 points on average in third quarters last season. After an offseason and training camp full of focus in that area, the Thunder has shown its mettle, and it’s ability to transform a weakness into a strength, and become the league’s best team after halftime. Coming into Monday’s 110-83 shellacking of the Eastern Conference’s fourth-best team thus far, the Detroit Pistons, the Thunder was outscoring its foes by an NBA-best 3.8 points in third quarters this season. That average will rise significantly after Donovan’s group ripped off a 37-19 third quarter against the Pistons, dominating the flow in every aspect of the game.”

Rod Beard (Detroit News) on the end of the Pistons’ five-game winning streak: The Pistons had their lowest-scoring first half of the season, managing just 40 points — their previous low was 41 points, against the Celtics on Oct. 27 — while hitting 35 percent from the field. The second half didn’t go much better, as the Thunder (15-7) put the game away quickly. With a 58-49 lead, the Thunder ran away, with a 29-10 run in the final 7:25 of the third quarter. Paul George had 10 of his 17 points and Russell Westbrook had nine of his 18 points during the spurt, as the Pistons managed just four field goals in the final 5:18, and the Thunder built an 85-59 margin. “We scored like 19 points — and that’s self-explanatory. Against a team list that, you have to play with force on the offensive end and you have to play with a sense of toughness,” Casey said. “Tonight, for whatever reason, we didn’t do that. It’s on me.”

Erik Horne (Oklahoman) on Terrance Ferguson’s impact in his first game back from injury: “Ferguson matched his season high for assists (three) in just eight minutes, showing some creative ability off the dribble rarely seen from the 20-year-old since arriving in Oklahoma City. Early in the third quarter, Ferguson drove again and found Russell Westbrook for a 3-pointer to set a career high with four assists.  “He’s learning and growing as a player,” Donovan said. “He made good decisions tonight. I was really happy for him. When you’re out like that sometimes it can take you a while to get going. It was great to see him come back in his first game and respond and play the way he did.”

Steven Adams highlights from the win: 21 points, 6 rebounds, 2 blocks, 7/8 FG, 7/7 FT

ESPN’s NBA Insiders on who is the second-best team in the West: “I expect the Oklahoma City Thunder to be the second-best come May. Oklahoma City currently sports the West’s second-best differential behind the Denver Nuggets, and that’s despite Russell Westbrook missing eight games due to injury. The Thunder will still add stopper Andre Roberson to what’s already been the league’s best defense on a per-possession basis and have plenty of playoff experience.”

Zach Harper (Athletic) has the Thunder sixth in his latest NBA power rankings: “Since returning from the ankle sprain that kept him out for six straight games, Russell Westbrook is bailing out defenses left and right. In his last six games, Westbrook has taken 30 free throw attempts and 40 3-point attempts. Prior to the ankle injury, Russ had attempted 52 free throws and 20 3-pointers over the course of seven games. He’s attacking the basket less often and settling for shots he historically can’t make. Westbrook is shooting 21.7 percent from deep this season. He’s a 30.9 percent 3-point shooter for his career. Sure, he’ll get hot every now and again, but he simply can’t shoot 3-pointers at an acceptable clip. His free throw rate has declined from 43.3 percent in 2016-17 to 32.8 percent this season. There will be nights in which Westbrook is able to knock down a few 3-pointers and make teams pay. Teams will live with that every time if it means he’s not getting to the free throw line 10 times in a game.”

Adam Fromal (B/R) on every team’s most surprising player thus far: Oklahoma City Thunder: Nerlens Noel. When the Oklahoma City Thunder inked Nerlens Noel to a two-year minimum contract with a player option for 2019-20, they couldn’t have expected much. This was a prove-yourself deal after a year and a half spent floundering with the Dallas Mavericks, subjected to declining minutes and a role that featured less importance than he’d boasted with the Philadelphia 76ers. He’s proved himself. Noel is still logging a career-low 13.6 minutes per game, but he’s excelled during his time on the court, displaying contagious energy levels and a willingness to play to his strengths. That hasn’t translated to much offensive production, as defenses can sag back and clog up the paint, daring the big man to attempt mid-range jumpers. It has, however, made the Thunder more potent on the preventing end, where they’re allowing 3.1 fewer points per 100 possessions when he’s on the floor.”

Happy 27th birthday, Andre Roberson:

Around the League: The Nuggets are very, very good…. Fred Hoiberg is out as coach of the Bulls…. Steph Curry returned to form last night against Atlanta…. Kobe discusses the Lakers and how they’ll be champs ‘before you know it’…. Inside the team-wide meningitis scare that plagued Golden State last season…. Recapping last night’s NBA action…. Why Joel Embiid is the early front-runner for MVP.