5 min read

Tuesday Bolts: 3.6.18

Tuesday Bolts: 3.6.18

Nick Gallo previews tonight’s Thunder/Rockets match-up: “The stretch run will push the Thunder, like the rest of its Western Conference foes, to the brink over these final five weeks of the season. But after a span of six-of-seven games on the road, the Thunder finally returns to Chesapeake Energy Arena to kick off a four-game home stand. That’s the good news. The challenge is that its first matchup is against the Houston Rockets, winners of 15 consecutive games as they’ve acted the buzzsaw to reach the top of the NBA standings. The Thunder, at 37-28, are scratching and clawing with a host of eight other teams for a total of six seeds the round out the Western Conference playoff picture. In order to make the inroads it needs to in this late-season charge, the Thunder’s job against Houston starts on defense.”

Odds Shark has the odds, analysis, & betting pick for Rockets @ Thunder: “The Thunder are the more desperate team right now, while the Rockets will not win the rest of their games this season. It may not seem like it, but Oklahoma City is catching Houston in the perfect spot and has the confidence of winning the most recent meeting. While the Rockets are the better team and would likely win another playoff matchup, look for the Thunder to roll to an upset victory and end their opponent’s winning streak.”

Erik Horne with Corey Brewer’s scouting report on James Harden: “Even with NBA All-Defensive team selection Andre Roberson shadowing him last postseason to the tune of 41.1 percent from the field and 24.0 percent from 3-point range, Harden averaged 33.2 poitns per game in the first round against the Thunder. At the least, Brewer can provide some additional intel. “James is going to get to where he wants to get to. The most important thing is to make him shoot over you. Don’t let him have space. If he gets space, it’s going in.”

The Thunder is celebrating Mexican Heritage Night tonight in OKC: “Before the game, fans can enjoy staged photo opportunities and visit the chalk wall where there will be a SOMOS Thunder/VIVA OKC mural… Fans will have the opportunity to purchase the same El Thunder shooting shirts the players will wear from the Thunder Shop outside of Section 120… Prior to the game, Mauricio Mejia from Northwest Baptist Church will lead the invocation, and members from Capitol Hill High School Navy JROTC will present the colors. The national anthem will be performed by Jackie Chavez and Eleno Ornelas will recite the player introductions in Spanish. The halftime presentation will feature “America’s Got Talent” quarterfinalists, Junior & Emily.”

Matt Moore (Action Network) on why OKC is struggling without Andre Roberson: “Andre Roberson is more important to Oklahoma City than Carmelo Anthony. The above sentence is at once controversial to many casual fans around the sports world, and not at all controversial to Oklahoma City fans or anyone who follows the league closely. When Roberson went down in late January with a ruptured patellar tendon, there was plenty of debate about just how much it would hurt the Thunder. After all, Roberson shot 22% from 3-point range, and guys who can’t shoot don’t matter in the NBA anymore, right? Well, let me tell you this, with Oklahoma City tied in the loss column with the Clippers for ninth in the West, just two games back of third in the loss column from Portland, facing either a sweet 3-spot landing, a host of unpleasant first-round matchups or the haunting specter of missing the playoffs entirely in a season built to convince Paul George to stay in free agency: Andre Roberson matters an awful lot.”

Erik Horne on Billy Donovan’s “trial and error” approach to Corey Brewer: “Thunder coach Billy Donovan said his goal is to get Brewer more than the 12 minutes he played against Portland, but a determination hasn’t been made on Brewer’s role. “Whether that means starting him or him coming off the bench, I’m not quite sure what’s best because I don’t have enough information to see him playing with those guys,” Donovan said when asked about Brewer possibly playing the bulk of his minutes with Carmelo Anthony, Paul George, Russell Westbrook and Steven Adams. “I know there’s not a lot of games left, not a lot of time left to figure that out, but there may be some trial and error where you look at some things that may be good and you stick with it.”

Dan Favale (B/R) on the postseason fate for every fringe team: “Star power ultimately carries the Thunder past some of their peers. Adams, George and Westbrook continue to crush opponents when they aren’t playing alongside Anthony. Sorry crunch-time efforts work in their favor as well. They’re 17-17 through games in which neither team leads or trails by more than five points entering the final five minutes. Flip a couple more of those close games in their favor, and the Thunder are in business. Measuring-stick games against the Rockets (March 6, April 7), Spurs (March 10 and 29), Celtics (March 20) and Warriors (April 3) remain, but Oklahoma City remains too talented to wallow on the clutch-time fringes all year.”

Kelly Scaletta (FanRag) on why OKC is no lock for the playoffs: “Since Roberson’s season ended, the Thunder are 8-8 with a minus-1.6 net rating, and that might actually overstate things. They had one very good win against the Golden State Warriors, but got clobbered by the Dubs weeks later. OKC also beat the Philadelphia 76ers in the first game after Roberson’s injury. Their other six wins have come against the Memphis Grizzlies (twice), Sacramento Kings, Orlando Magic, Dallas Mavericks and Phoenix Suns. It’s a veritable who’s who of tanking teams, and even then five of those games were within five points with five minutes or fewer remaining in regulation, and the Mavericks game went into overtime. In all, the Thunder are 4-8 against winning teams without Roberson this season. OKC is tied for the hardest remaining schedule in terms of opponents’ winning percentage (56.0 percent), according to PlayoffStatus.com; 13 of their 17 remaining opponents have winning records. This includes two games against the Houston Rockets, San Antonio Spurs and Miami Heat, and one each against the Boston Celtics, Toronto Raptors, Portland Trail Blazers, Denver Nuggets, Los Angeles Clippers and Warriors.”

The Ringer staff discusses the West outside of Houston and Golden State: “The team that can rival the Rockets and Warriors will need a superstar-level dynamic scorer, so that rules out the Nuggets, Clippers, and Jazz (Donovan Mitchell isn’t quite there). The team will need its stars to be healthy, so that rules out the Timberwolves and Spurs, considering the uncertain statuses of Butler and Leonard. The team will need a strong supporting cast, so that rules out the Pelicans, even as Anthony Davis continues to channel Wilt Chamberlain and Kevin Garnett. That leaves the Blazers and Thunder. Both teams have multiple healthy stars who can heat up, as well as top-10 defenses. The Blazers are better at scoring in the half court, and a tick better defensively ever since the Thunder lost Andre Roberson (and couldn’t find a replacement). But the Blazers are about as good as they can be this season, while the Thunder still have room for growth.”

Around the League: Kevin Love opened up on panic attacks/mental health…. The Hornets have expanded their search for a new GM…. Steve Kerr thinks undrafted players should be able to return to the NCAA…. The Clippers have signed a jersey patch deal with Bumble…. Pau Gasol says Marc should be upset with the Grizzlies…. Dwyane Wade met with the family of a Parkland victim.