Nick Gallo (okcthunder.com) previews tonight’s game against the Magic: “In between reviewing film, statistics and strategy, guys caught a glimpse of the big game from up in the air, but as soon as the team touched down, it’s focus turned to facing a very recent foe. One of the teams the Thunder played on its most recent 2-1 road swing, the Orlando Magic, comes to Oklahoma City exactly one week after the Thunder’s 126-117 victory down in central Florida last Tuesday. In that game, the Magic snagged 18 defensive rebounds and launched 41 three-point attempts. While the Thunder’s win in Orlando was one in a stretch of seven-straight victories, the road trip concluded with a 134-129 loss to the Boston Celtics. Even against an extraordinarily talented squad like Boston, scoring 129 points should be enough for victory. That’s why in this rematch with Orlando here at Chesapeake Energy Arena, Head Coach Billy Donovan’s club wants to get back to its core identity.”
Roy Parry (Orlando Sentinel) previews Thunder/Magic from the other side: “George has produced 36, 37, 43 and 37 points his past four games. “He’s good,” said Magic power forward Aaron Gordon. “They’re really letting him play out there, so he’s able to take the iso [isolation]. He likes the spot-ups. He’s knocking the long ball down, and he’s a good playmaker, gets to the line. There’s not a lot of weaknesses in his game, so he’s a tough cover.” The Magic know that all too well. George recorded 37 points — 31 in the first half — when the Thunder prevailed 126-117 last week in Orlando. George, who’s garnering heavy MVP consideration, is averaging 27.8 points, 7.9 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 2.29 steals a game.”
Erik Horne (Oklahoman) on the Thunder’s rumored interest in Wesley Matthews: “Wing players are always highly coveted come deadline time, and the Thunder reportedly is monitoring the status of Knicks guard Wesley Matthews, according to Marc Stein of the New York Times. Matthews, 32, was spotlighted in Sunday’s Oklahoman as a potential free agency signing by the Thunder following a buyout from the Knicks. According to Stein, the Knicks are exploring trading Matthews before Thursday. But teams without or with limited cap space such as the Thunder, 76ers, Warriors, Raptors and Rockets are waiting on the Knicks to buy out the remainder of Matthews’ $18.6 million salary so he can be offered either the mid-level exception between $5.3 and $8.6 million or a veteran’s minimum deal ($2.3 million).”
Russell Dorsey (Forbes) on what the Thunder should do at the trade deadline: “Presti and the Thunder haven’t been afraid to be aggressive in the trade market, as shown in past acquisitions of George, Anthony, Victor Oladipo, Jerami Grant and others. The Thunder are going to be buyers at the trade deadline and prepare for the stretch run. Every contender would like to have perimeter shooting, but bringing in additional shooting help will be Oklahoma City’s biggest priority at the deadline. The team is currently 16th in three-point percentage, 19th in threes made and 28th in free throw percentage. A variety of shooting options are available on the market and most wouldn’t cost the team much, as many are on expiring contracts. Here are a few possible options for the Thunder at the deadline.”
Adam Fromal (B/R) on why the Thunder need to trade Patrick Patterson: “Well, the Thunder keep doing their darnedest to make sure Patterson no longer seems like a value. He played just 15.5 minutes per game during his first go-round in the Sooner State, and his playing time has actually decreased in the follow-up campaign. With Jerami Grant and Nerlens Noel thriving—plus the team turning to plenty of small-ball outfits that leave him on the pine—he just can’t develop any semblance of a rhythm. That said, Patterson is still on a reasonable deal, whether he opts out for the allure of free agency this summer or picks up a cheap option. He’s still only 29 years old. He can still contribute in plenty of non-glamorous roles, especially if a team doesn’t need him to function as a scorer.”
Zach Harper (Athletic) has the Thunder fifth in his latest power rankings: “They rank 16th in 3-point accuracy, but that’s mostly boosted by the insane shooting season from PG and the emergence the last month or so from Ferguson’s jumper. Everybody else on this team shoots pretty mediocre from outside. If you can slow down the outside threat of George, nobody else can really step up at a high volume and start raining down 3-pointers. The Thunder probably also have to wait for the buyout market to give them a shooter to pitch on joining the squad. Adding another outside threat would catapult them into the clear number 2 team in the West, but it just doesn’t seem likely they can easily make that trade happen.”
Maddie Lee (Oklahoman) on Jerami Grant’s impact on the Thunder: “Grant’s first appearance in the starting lineup this season very well may have been about matchups, not just a kind way to explain demoting Patterson to the second unit. Boston is made up of versatile players in positions one through five, so playing a power forward who can switch onto guards and centers alike provides an advantage for the Thunder. But when is that not an advantage? Grant’s impact on the starting unit was immediate. The Thunder lost that first game against the Celtics but then went on a seven-game winning streak. It took those seven games for it to really sink in for Grant that he had become a permanent starter, he told the Oklahoman. “Whatever the coaching staff needed from me I was going to be willing to do it,” he said. “Same with my teammate, whatever they needed me to do I would have done it.”
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