4 min read

Tuesday Bolts: 3.20.18

Nick Gallo previews tonight’s game in Boston: “In the final stretch of the season, the Thunder is doing exactly what it set out to do at the beginning of the year – play its best basketball heading into the postseason. While its position isn’t secured or finalized, the Thunder has certainly shown an elevated level of performance over the past two weeks, including a thrilling shootout victory over Toronto in the buildup to its road tilt with the Boston Celtics. Although the Celtics may not have Kyrie Irving or Jaylen Brown for this matchup, and definitely won’t have Marcus Smart, the Thunder knows this is one of the best-coached and most talented groups in the NBA.”

The L2M report said Corey Brewer did not foul DeMar DeRozan late in Sunday’s win: “RHH shows Brewer (OKC) make contact with the ball and the part of DeRozan’s (TOR) hand that is on the ball. The hand is considered “part of the ball” when it is in contact with the ball and therefore, contact on that part of the hand by a defender while it is in contact with the ball is not illegal.”

Russell Westbrook won Western Conference Player of the Week: “Russell Westbrook has been named Western Conference Player of the Week for week 22 of the NBA season. The reigning MVP earned the honor after averaging 25.5 points, 12 assists, 11.3 rebounds, and leading the Thunder to a perfect 4-0 record. He shot 52.6 percent from the field in the four wins and hit 60 percent of his attempts from long distance.”

Fred Katz on Steven Adams and the art of the jump ball: “The Thunder center can reel off the intricacies of each referee’s tossing form. And it’s helped. He’s won just over 71 percent of jump balls this year, fourth in the NBA among qualifying centers, according to tracking by analytics site Nylon Calculus. The rate is up from last year’s 66 percent, which ranked seventh among qualifying centers. “All I’m looking for is just how they mask it, really, because it’s the first one to the ball,” Adams said. “You don’t have to jump super high. You just have to get there before anyone.” Adams does just that. His success helps Oklahoma City accomplish a goal: earn an extra possession to lead through one quarter. About two-thirds of teams that lead after the first period end up winning. And Adams insists the jump is a speed game, not a height one.”

Jenni Carlson on why Russell Westbrook belongs in the MVP discussion: “I don’t think anyone other than James Harden is going to win the NBA’s top individual award. The Rockets’ shooting star has built such a lead on the field that it would take an utter collapse for anyone to catch him. Westbrook, though, belongs in the group giving chase. But even as Oklahoma City seeks to extend its six-game winning streak in Boston on Tuesday after an attention-grabbing triumph at Toronto on Sunday, Westbrook is a forgotten man in the MVP conversation. There’s talk about Anthony Davis and LeBron James and DeMar DeRozan and Kyrie Irving and Damian Lillard belonging on the ballot with Harden. Those guys deserve a spot in the MVP discourse. All of them are having great seasons. But so is Westbrook.”

Berry Tramel on the Thunder’s difficult remaining schedule: “The Thunder still has the NBA’s toughest remaining schedule, according to opponents’ winning percentage. But that remaining schedule is a little less daunting after Sunday, when OKC went to Toronto, home of the NBA’s best home winning percentage, and beat the Raptors 132-125. Suddenly, there’s some separation in the tight Western Conference. Portland has gone into refuse-to-lose mode. The Blazers have won 13 straight and haven’t lost since Feb. 11. Portland, 44-26, leads OKC by two games, and the Thunder leads the Jazz, Pelicans and Spurs by two games each. Minnesota, 40-31, has fallen all the way to eighth, 2-1/2 games behind the Thunder.”

The Thunder is fourth in Sports Illustrated’s latest power rankings: “The Thunder leap six spots in the rankings this week. OKC has won six in a row, including an impressive victory over the Raptors in Toronto on Sunday. When Russell Westbrook is as committed to getting to the paint as he was in that game, the Thunder look so much better. Russ’s chemistry with Steven Adams is as good as any pick-and-roll pairing’s in the league. Meanwhile, the Corey Brewer signing may have saved this team’s season.”

ESPN has Russ third in its latest individual player rankings: “Four games, four triple-doubles for the reigning MVP who led the Thunder to a perfect 4-0 week. A self-described “man on a mission” during OKC’s six-game win streak, Westbrook has the Thunder rolling thanks in part to improved shot selection. For the most part, he shunned the long ball, as just five of his 78 attempts came from 3. Additionally, Westbrook ranked just 13th in pull-up jumpers per game with 7.8, nearly three fewer than his league-leading average entering the week, according to Second Spectrum player tracking.”

Patrick Patterson writes about Black Panther‘s impact in The Player’s Tribune: “The last straw came in the locker room after practice, that first day back — before we took off for the start of our road trip in Sacramento. I’m at my locker, and who pulls up beside me but Melo. Melo’s another big movie guy, very legit, knows his stuff. And he looks at me and he goes, “Pat, have you seen Black Panther yet?” I’m like, “Nah, been in Mexico, I ain’t seen it yet. What’d you think about it?” And he just looks at me real calm. Real calm, no jokes. And he says, “Man — that’s my favorite movie of all time.” Then he smiles and walks away.”

Around the League: Trae Young is going pro…. Steph Curry is targeting a return…. Kevin Love returned and scored 18 points in a winning effort…. The Spurs beat the short-handed Warriors last night in San Antonio…. Jordan Clarkson has an interesting theory about dinosaurs.