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Wednesday Bolts: 1.3.18

Wednesday Bolts: 1.3.18

Nick Gallo previews tonight’s Thunder @ Lakers match-up: “It’s pure human nature to have a higher level of concentration and focus when an elite opponent comes calling, but it takes a special level of discipline to operate at that high level regardless of the opposition. Against the Lakers, the Thunder has to get to that mental and emotional level in order to make sure every defensive play is executed as well as possible. “It’s mental. It’s definitely corrections through practice. It’s a little bit of everything,” George listed. “Us having a better sharpness, a better focus coming into games, and then us just working and building habits in practice.” “Our effort’s there. Our intention is there. The unselfishness is there,” Donovan added. “But the execution’s got to be a lot better and a lot higher level.”

Brett Dawson on Andre Roberson missing the Thunder’s entire three-game road trip: “Oklahoma City’s defensive specialist will miss all three games on a road trip that begins Wednesday against the Los Angeles Lakers, coach Billy Donovan said after Tuesday’s practice. Roberson has tendinitis in his left knee patellar tendon. Roberson’s status beyond the next three games — the Thunder plays at the Clippers on Thursday and at the Phoenix Suns on Sunday — will be determined after the trip.”

Ohm Youngmisuk (ESPN) on Lonzo Ball and Brook Lopez being cleared to practice but questionable against OKC: “Point guard Lonzo Ball and center Brook Lopez have been cleared to practice and are listed as questionable for the Los Angeles Lakers’ game against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday night. Ball (bruised left shoulder) and Lopez (sprained right ankle) were cleared to practice after the Lakers re-evaluated their injuries Tuesday. The Lakers were off and won’t practice again until Thursday, but Ball and Lopez could always go through a workout at Wednesday morning’s shootaround. Both are considered day-to-day by the team.”

RotoWire on how the Lakers could also be without Kyle Kuzma against the Thunder: “Kuzma (quadriceps) indicated that he’s unsure if he’ll be able to play Wednesday against the Thunder, Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Times reports. During Monday’s 114-96 loss to the Timberwolves, Kuzma took a shot to his right quadriceps, an area that had already been a source of discomfort for him in recent games.”

Erik Horne on Paul George’s trade/Lakers comments from yesterday: “All was said was a destination I would love to go to,” George said. “There wasn’t gun pointed to the head ‘send me here.’ I just stated somewhere I wanted to go play. You ask 80, 70 percent of the guys in the league if they’d love to go back home and play for their city, for their home … that’s all I stated. I would have loved to go back home and play for my city. So, no regrets at all. I thought this trade that went down was a win-win for both sides, and I’m happy we both moved on.”

Fred Katz on why Alex Abrines’ defense puts a wrench in the Thunder’s Roberson-less plans: “The lineup Donovan has played second-most? That’s the one which splices Abrines into the first unit for Roberson. But that group hasn’t found close to the same success. Instead, it’s getting outscored by 7.7 points per 100, a 19-point swing per 100 possessions. Nearly all of the fall off comes because of the defense, which is 19.7 points per 100 worse with Abrines playing alongside the starters instead of Roberson. In fact, defense falls off almost no matter who plays with Abrines.”

AJ Mason (USA Today) on Carmelo Anthony saying the Thunder’s defense has been slipping: “The offense came a long way, it’s coming a long way,” Anthony said. “That’s something that we’ve figured out, it’s something we will continue to work on,” he said. “But even though our offense is moving in the right direction, we can’t allow our defense to slip. We are one of the top defensive teams in the NBA, so we want to keep that level of intensity out there, that focus, at the same time as our offense is making strides and moving to the right direction.”

The Thunder is eighth in ESPN’s latest batch of power rankings: “The Thunder finished December with the third-best record in the NBA at 12-5. In that time, Russell Westbrook found himself in a familiar position, first in the league in usage rate (37.8), coinciding with a decrease in the same category for Carmelo Anthony and Paul George from the first two months of the season. The biggest difference for Westbrook: His 3-point attempts per game are down (5.6 to 4.3) and drives per game are up (17.0 to 21.5).”

Around the League: The anatomy of an NBA champion…. What is Kyrie Irving chasing?…. Gregg Popovich moved to fifth all-time in coaching wins…. Manu Ginobili made one of the more bizarre three-pointers you’ll see…. Isaiah Thomas returned to score 17 points in 19 minutes for the Cavs…. Lavar Ball — NBA founder?