NICK GALLO (okcthunder.com) previews tonight’s game in Minnesota: “What lays ahead now is a 7-day, 4-game, 3 time-zone road trip, and a challenging one at that as it features three Northwest Division opponents, starting with the Minnesota Timberwolves. The Northwest Division is the best in basketball this season, with all five teams holding at least 29 wins so far, including Minnesota despite currently sitting in the 12th position in the Western Conference. At 29-34, the Timberwolves would be in 9th in the Eastern Conference, duking it out for a playoff spot. So far in this matchup the Thunder has lost both games but by just two points in each game. The issue for the Thunder was defense as it allowed Minnesota 43.1 percent three-point shooting and Andrew Wiggins averaged 35 points per game in the pair of battles.”
Kyle Ratke (Timberwolves.com) previews the game from the other side: “Westbrook has struggled shooting, shooting just 42.1 percent from the field and 26.6 percent from the 3-point line, also his worst marks since 2009-10. This would all be a bit better if he was hitting at the free-throw line, but he’s shooting just 65.4 percent from the charity stripe after shooting 84.5 just two seasons ago. Maybe we’ll look back and this will be a blip on the radar, but Thunder fans have the right to be a bit worried. Westbrook has had success against the Wolves from the field this season, though, shooting 51.2 percent from the field in two games. If the Wolves can slow down Westbrook, or force him to shoot tough shots, that would be the recipe to win. Of course, there’s still MVP candidate Paul George, who missed Sunday’s game with a right shoulder injury. We’ll see if he suits up in this one.”
RotoWorld on Paul George being listed as “OUT” tonight in Minnesota: “This is subject to change and comes from the NBA’s official injury report, but it’s looking like George will miss a fourth straight game. We haven’t heard much about his progress or the severity, so we’re still in the dark for the most part. Dennis Schroder is coming off a 17-point, 12-board and 6-assist game and has emerged as the clear beneficiary.”
Zach Harper (Athletic) has the Thunder 6th in his latest power rankings: “During these seven games, Westbrook has averaged 30.6 points, 11.3 rebounds, and 8.0 assists. I know, it’s weird not to see triple-double numbers plastered across the screen. He’s also shot 47.6 percent from the field and 33.3 percent from deep (that’s incredible for him). Even though the Thunder are struggling to win games right now, it may benefit them if this stretch of play gets Westbrook’s mind and game right. He’s put up numbers all year but he’s struggled with a lot of the basics, as well. Now he’s starting to look like the MVP version of Russ. Of course, one could argue that him putting up these big numbers is proof as to why the Thunder are struggling. Some people believe Russ going Russ means the Thunder get worse. Personally, I think it’s probably somewhere in-between, but it’s good to see Westbrook more on track with his game.”
Maddie Lee (Oklahoman) on Hamidou Diallo’s recent trips to the G-League: “The Thunder announced that it had assigned Hamidou Diallo to its G League affiliate Monday. It was the second time in as many days that the reigning NBA dunk contest champion joined the OKC Blue. On Sunday, Diallo recorded 21 points, seven rebounds and two steals at the Cox Convention Center before joining the Thunder across the street at Chesapeake Energy Arena. There he sat on the bench for a sloppy win over Memphis.
Erik Horne (Oklahoman) on Abdel Nader finding his place through basketball: “It’s pronounced Ab-DOOL, and there’s a story behind that, too. Nader, 25, is the son of Egyptian immigrants. The way Nader tells it, his parents didn’t know much English when they came to the United States. When his parents were going through customs and had to write his name down, there was no translation from Arabic to English. “You’re not really picky to see how they spelled it,” said Nader. His name was the least of his troubles transitioning to the U.S., with his family moving to Chicago. “It was a big difference, from societal norms to not knowing the language, having that barrier,” Nader said. “Just adjusting in general to the U.S. society was the biggest, hardest thing for me.” It was on courts in Chicago where Nader found where he belonged and where a passion grew.”
Cody Taylor (Thunder Wire) with three areas of improvement for the Thunder stretch run: “Bench Scoring — In the two games that George missed since the 76ers game, Donovan went with Schroder in the starting lineup. The bench production in those two games was a bit better than Thursday night but it will still be something that will need to improve. The Thunder rank 28th in the league in bench scoring with 30.6 points per game. With George and Russell Westbrook often handling the bulk of the scoring for the team, they haven’t had to rely too often on the bench but there will be nights in which those two don’t have it and will need to rely on others to step up. The team still has two open roster spots available so it is possible a player or two is signed for the duration of the season but the front office is likely holding off in order to save on luxury taxes. More depth will eventually be on the way so we’ll see if the team can have solid contributions moving forward.”
Around the League: LeBron’s first season in LA is officially a disaster…. LBJ has no intention to sit with playoff hopes fading…. The Suns beat the Bucks again?…. Andrew Bogut is joining the Warriors for the stretch run…. KD thinks the Celtics will be just fine…. D-Wade is the all-time leader in blocks by a guard…. The Lakers are hitting pause on signing Melo…. Inside the NBA’s quest to become the world’s most popular sports league…. Adam Silver spoke about anxiety and the unhappiness of NBA players…. Martin Rogers of USA Today on why the NBA needs fewer teams in the postseason.