Nick Gallo (okcthunder.com) recaps last night’s win over the Trail Blazers: “As the third quarter closed and fourth began the Thunder continued to parry Blazers runs, but eventually one of those second chances bit the Thunder badly as McCollum nailed a corner three-pointer off an offensive board that cut the Thunder lead to 109-106. With the nerves brimming in the building, George and Westbrook collected themselves and knocked down 5 of 6 free throws prior to the aforementioned trio of highlight plays by the perennial All-Star duo that ended this one in style. For the game, the Thunder forced 19 turnovers that led to 29 points, including a season-high tying 16 steals. By holding the Blazers to just 10-of-36 (27.8 percent) three-point shooting, taking 11 more free throws and turning the ball over 9 fewer times than Portland, the Thunder was able to generate more efficient offense all night long, and it paid dividends on the scoreboard and the standings tonight.”
Erik Horne (Oklahoman) on Billy Donovan’s rotations versus Portland: “Yes, the Thunder’s third consecutive win was talent driven. George was outstanding again, scoring 36 points. Westbrook had arguably his best game of the season, posting 29 points, 10 rebounds and 14 assists en route to a league-leading 14th triple-double. But the rotation manipulation by Donovan on the second night of a back-to-back was big. It started with George coming off halfway through the first quarter, a deviation from his usual pattern of playing the entire first. With 8:10 left in the fourth quarter, Westbrook came in for George — not Abdel Nader or Dennis Schroder, his usual substitution partners. George rested for a minute and 18 seconds before Donovan sent him back in along with Jerami Grant and Terrance Ferguson for a final push.”
Russell Westbrook is not bothered by Evan Turner rocking the baby:
More post-game pettiness via Jusuf Nurkic:
Clay Horning (Norman Transcript) on vintage Russ showing up against the Blazers: “Once in the third quarter and once in the fourth, it was absolute classic Westbrook, knifing through traffic in the paint and converting the kind of acrobatic and horribly difficult layup he’s become synonymous with, yet has struggled mightily to finish this season. Finally, after George’s fifth steal and layup, it was Westbrook dunks on Oklahoma City’s next two possessions that were the cherries on top of the victory over the team that entered the evening tied with the Thunder in third place in the Western Conference. Westbrook finished with his 14th triple double of the season, yet it was beside the point. To the point were the facts that he shot well enough, 9 of 20, led with his passing, dishing 14 assists and finished with 29 points mostly because he did something else he’s struggled mightily to do this season, making 10 of 12 free throws. “It was a good win,” was about as deep as Westbrook chose to get afterward.”
Jenni Carson (Oklahoman) on OKC putting their defensive troubles behind them: “Portland went 10 of 36 from behind the 3-point line, shooting 27.8 percent. It was one of the Blazers’ worst shooting performances from behind the arc this season. Twice, they shot 27.3 percent, but Tuesday against the Thunder was the only other time that they’ve been below 28 percent this season. Credit goes to every guy who wore a Thunder jersey. You don’t cause that kind of havoc without a total team effort. But special achievement awards should be given to Terrance Ferguson, Russell Westbrook and George. Those three guards were active and engaged and locked in from the jump. That’s no easy thing on the second night of a back-to-back.”
Todd Whitehead (Nylon Calculus) on when it pays to stagger your stars: “Among the duos with Stagger Percents of 15 or less — those most-closely tethered binary stars of the NBA universe — we find the Wizards’ John Wall and Bradley Beal, the Blazers’ Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, and the Thunder’s Russell Westbrook and Paul George. Here’s a typical Westbrook-George substitution pattern from a four-point win over the Hornets. Westbrook and George played 35 minutes together, Westbrook played just 2 minutes without George, and George played 4 minutes without Westbrook. So, on average, each one played 3 of 38 minutes without his co-star, an 8 percent stagger.”
Around the League: The Grizzlies are listening to offers for Mike Conley and Marc Gasol…. James Harden thinks Melo deserves another chance…. Recapping last night’s NBA action…. The most ridiculous trade rumors so far…. A Mavs fan has been banned from the arena for heckling Patrick Beverley…. How KD & Draymond saved their relationship…. The future of 3-&-D players.