Nick Gallo (okcthunder.com) recaps last night’s loss in Atlanta: “On Tuesday morning the Thunder’s coaches and players knew the Atlanta Hawks were a team that would test them from behind the three-point line, in the deep paint and on second chances. All of those areas hurt the Thunder later that night, and aside from the first and third quarters the Hawks were dominant, scoring 45 points in each of the second and fourth quarters in a 142-126 Thunder loss. Head Coach Billy Donovan said that while there certainly were some x’s and o’s issues in the game – namely the weak side protection of the rim – that it was a team-wide lackluster performance that did the Thunder in. The coaches were included in that assessment.”
Paul Kasabian (B/R) on the struggling Thunder defense: “The Thunder have given up 128.6 points in their last five games. To put that number into context, the Hawks entered Tuesday last in the league in scoring defense with 117.7 points per game allowed. During that stretch, the Thunder allowed 154 points to the San Antonio Spurs in double overtime (56 of which came from LaMarcus Aldridge). They also lost 116-98 to a then-16-24 Washington Wizards team without All-Star point guard John Wall and dropped a 119-117 decision to the Minnesota Timberwolves, who were led by Andrew Wiggins’ 40 points. The Thunder’s loss against the Hawks on Tuesday may have been the breaking point here, as Oklahoma City allowed 90 combined points in the second and fourth quarters alone. The Hawks shot 62.2 percent from the field, and Collins hit his first 11 shots. Atlanta also went 18-of-37 from three-point range.”
Maddie Lee (Oklahoman) with observations from last night’s 142-126 Hawks victory: “The crux of this observational nugget is that Hawks center Alex Len came off the bench Tuesday night in Atlanta to tie his season high of 24 points against the Thunder. He has only scored 20-plus points two other times this season: against Washington and Cleveland, two bottom five teams in the Eastern Conference. Len is averaging 10.5 points per game, so how did he score almost 2.5 times that on the Thunder? This isn’t a trick question. Hint: this type of defensive breakdown was pervasive in the first half. Pick-and-roll coverage. The Thunder reserved its usual defensive standard – the team does have the best defensive rating (103.6) in the league, after all – for just the third quarter Wednesday. That brings us back to Len, a player who’s averaging four field goals on 8.3 shots per game. A player who shot 9-of-14 Tuesday night.”
Dave McMenamin (ESPN) on LeBron James not traveling to OKC for Thursday’s game: “LeBron James will miss at least the next two games for the Lakers as he continues to rehabilitate a strained left groin, his agent, Rich Paul of Klutch Sports, told ESPN on Tuesday. James has missed the past 11 games since suffering the injury on Christmas Day at the Golden State Warriors, and the Lakers have gone 4-7 in his absence, including Tuesday’s 107-100 win against the hapless Chicago Bulls at Staples Center. The groin injury will be re-evaluated in Los Angeles on Wednesday — the three-week mark since the injury occurred — and James will not accompany the team on its two-game trip to Oklahoma City and Houston, Paul told ESPN.”
Ben Rohrbach (Yahoo Sports) has Paul George as his Defensive Player of the Year: “George captured First Team All-Defensive honors the season prior to breaking his leg in 2014, and he’s now back to being the stopper who gave Indiana hope it could limit LeBron James enough in a seven-game series. He leads the league in steals, and his fundamental defense doesn’t suffer for it, as his 7-foot wingspan contains every opponent’s best player for large stretches, regardless of position. As efficient as George has been offensively this season, he may be more so on the other end, anchoring a defense that leads the NBA in rating by more than a full point per 100 possessions. That rating is three points better when George is on the floor and three points worse when he is on the bench, the difference between the best defense since 2015-16 and the No. 7 defense this season. Even teammate Steven Adams, another candidate for this award, doesn’t swing the Thunder D that much.”
Jeff Zillgitt & Martin Rogers (USA Today) also have PG13 winning DPOY: “George’s comfort level in his second season with the Thunder is obvious on both ends of the floor. His ability to defend, especially his lockdown ability on the perimeter, gives Oklahoma City the best defensive rating in the league, allowing 102.9 points per 100 possessions. Players are shooting just 41.8 percent against George, including 30.4 percent on 3-pointers, according to NBA.com/stats.”
Alex Abrines sighting yesterday in Atlanta!: He lives.
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