3 min read

Tuesday Bolts: 4.3.18

Sam Amick (USA Today) with a guide to the Western Conference playoff race: “The bad news for Russell Westbrook’s Thunder? With Paul George’s free agency this summer hanging over their heads, they picked a terrible time to lose four of their last six games. The good news? They got that much closer to a possible first-round matchup with the ailing Warriors, who aren’t expected to have two-time MVP Steph Curry until the second round because of his MCL injury and would rely heavily on Kevin Durant in his absence. It’s safe to assume that Westbrook would love nothing more than kicking the defending champs and his former co-star while they’re down.”

Nick Gallo previews tonight’s Warriors @ Thunder match-up: “There’s nothing like playoff basketball. Just so happens that the Thunder is getting a taste of it about two weeks early. Not only is the Thunder fighting for its playoff lives and positioning but Tuesday night’s clash against the Golden State Warriors will be the fourth installment of one of the NBA’s most intense rivalries, regardless of the win-loss records or stakes for either side. Thunder-Warriors games are always intense, with a competitive streak that isn’t often found during a 1-of-82 regular season environment. When those games are in Chesapeake Energy Arena, they raise to another level. 10-time All-Star Carmelo Anthony had the chance to experience that setting for the first time all the way back in November, when the Thunder won 108-91 and is excited to experience it again, especially with the Thunder sitting at 45-33 and jostling with Western Conference foes between the 4th and 10th spots.”

Odds Shark on the Warriors being underdogs tonight in OKC: “The Oklahoma City Thunder are just 1-3 straight up and 0-4 against the spread over their last four home games. The Thunder hope to get things back on track at home with a win over the Golden State Warriors Tuesday night. Oklahoma City is a 3.5-point home favorite at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. The Warriors are 0-4 SU and ATS in four games as a betting underdog this season.”

Darryl Matsuda (Mercury News) on the Thunder trying to take the season-series over Golden State: “The Thunder could become the first team to defeat the Warriors three times in a single season since the Kerr Era began with the 2014-15 season. The last team to defeat the Warriors three times in a season was San Antonio, which was 4-0 against Golden State in 2013-14.”

Erik Horne on whether or not the Thunder would want to face Golden State in the first round of the playoffs: “The Thunder has without question performed better against the Warriors this season than any of the West’s Top 3. Maybe some of that comes down to motivation. Russell Westbrook, who’s averaged 27.7 points and limited his turnovers to five per game against the Warriors this season, was short on the topic Monday, claiming he didn’t know why the Thunder matched up so well against Golden State. Carmelo Anthony played coy with a heavy dose of sarcasm when asked if he noticed if the Warriors brought a special fire out of Westbrook. “No. Nah, nah, nah, nah. I didn’t notice that,” Anthony deadpanned. “Nah, I never noticed that…”

Royce Young on the Carmelo Anthony debate just beginning for the Thunder: “All of the Thunder’s best lineups include Anthony, but the fine print often gets lost when it comes to him. Since Roberson’s injury, the Thunder allow 109.3 points per 100 possessions with Anthony on the court, and 103.9 with him off (in fourth quarters, it’s 107.3 on, 102.1 off).  If the shots don’t go in to counteract that, he’ll be quickly identified as the adjustment OKC should make, fair or not. Coming off the bench was always a bridge too far, even as the Thunder struggled early on, but will Donovan roll with Melo-less lineups to close out games when they count most? Anthony has given up more than anyone else. He has changed positions, reinvented himself as a stretch-4 and accepted nights of single-digit shot attempts. He has done what has been asked of him.”

ESPN has the Thunder ninth in its latest power rankings: “Though they beat the Pelicans on Sunday, the Thunder are limping into the playoffs. They’re 2-4 in their past six games, with each loss against teams over .500. Russell Westbrook would need 57 rebounds and 28 assists in his final four games (assuming he plays every game) to average another triple-double for the season, and OKC will need all the stat-stuffing he can muster.”

Cody Taylor (Thunder Wire) on Paul George being nominated for the Magic Johnson Award: “Thunder forward Paul George is one of five players nominated for the 2018 Magic Johnson Award. The award, which is presented by the Professional Basketball Writers Association, is given to the player who best combines excellence on the court with excellence with the media.”

Around the League: Gordon Hayward is jogging again…. Jimmy Butler is nearing return…. KD says it’s James Harden’s time for MVP…. Projecting the winners/losers of the NBA tanking race…. LeBron James is upset with Alabama football over copyright infringement.