6 min read

Wednesday Bolts: 10.17.18

Nick Gallo (okcthunder.com) recaps last night’s season-opening loss to the Warriors: “George, who finished with 27 points, knocked down his first five shots of the third quarter, including two three-pointers, to ignite a 22-9 Thunder run to begin the half, resulting in a 69-66 Oklahoma City lead with 7:16 to go in the period. The electricity emanating from George’s hot shooting sent a jolt through the Oracle Arena crowd, along with shockwaves through the jerseys of the players in Thunder blue. “The third quarter I came out and just said, ‘I’m going to be a scorer and look to come into those shots looking to score and make baskets’,” George noted. “I was able to get into a good rhythm to start the third.” From there on out, it was nip and tuck, with mini-spurts by both clubs defining the mood inside the arena. As it has been over the years against the Warriors and others throughout the league, the Thunder’s defense was disruptive and forced mistakes left and right. At night’s end, the Warriors shot just 44.2 percent from the field, including 7-for-26 (26.9 percent) from the three-point line while attempting just 18 free throws. More impressive was the 20 turnovers that the Thunder defense forced by getting its length and athleticism into the game by keeping arms in passing lanes and helping over from the weakside. Those giveaways resulted in 19 Thunder points on the other end.”

Brett Dawson (The Athletic) on what the Thunder learned without Russell Westbrook: “On one critical late possession, George misfired on a tough step-back jumper, and when guard Terrance Ferguson tipped the ball to Schröder, his quick-trigger 3-pointer failed to draw rim, a sloppy sequence even for an opener. But with two starters sidelined, with Westbrook relegated to snacking instead of attacking, the Thunder had a shot at the champs on opening night. That’s enough to make you wonder how the main course might look once the Thunder is working with a full plate. “Our length is the key,” Schröder said. “I think when Russ comes back, and even (Andre) Roberson, on the defensive end, we’re really special. I think it’s hard to score against us when everybody’s out there and everybody’s healthy.”

Erik Horne (Oklahoman) on the Thunder reserves playing well against the Dubs: “The Thunder cut the Warriors’ lead to 41-36 with 7:18 left in the quarter before Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant came back in to stretch the lead back to 10 at halftime. But with Steven Adams playing through lower back stiffness, Nerlens Noel and Jerami Grant stepped in toward the end of the first quarter to begin a slight shift. Noel spooked Kevin Durant into a close-range miss, and finished a putback dunk in transition. Grant blocked Draymond Green from behind. And when Diallo was inserted to start the fourth quarter, he was crossed up again, but recovered to deflect a Warriors pass, one of 18 Golden State turnovers to that point. “Was I nervous?,” Diallo asked back in postgame. “Not really. The chills and nervousness (are) out.” The reserves kept the Thunder in the game, particularly with Paul George and Dennis Schroder having to finish the second quarter on the bench with three fouls each.”

Paul George highlights vs Golden State:

Scott Polacek (B/R) on the Melo-less Thunder looking better already: “The Thunder weren’t supposed to stay close Tuesday with Westbrook and Andre Roberson sidelined and Steven Adams dealing with a back issue, per Monte Poole of NBC Sports Bay Area. Oklahoma City not only hung with a historically great team without its MVP candidate and premier defender, it quickly erased a double-digit deficit and built a second-half lead. It also hinted at what’s to come when all the pieces of a new-look team playing without Carmelo Anthony’s ball-stopping ways are together. There was too much standing and waiting for Westbrook or Anthony to do something last season. According to NBA.com, Westbrook was fourth in the league in number of isolation possessions among players who appeared in at least 50 games, while Anthony was 13th.”

Jon Hamm (B/R) on the Thunder needing efficiency in order to be elite: “It’s unwise to build cases around small preseason sample sizes, but OKC’s shooting is still a work in progress. In four games, all of which they played without Westbrook, the Thunder shot 40.4 percent from the field and 33.6 percent from three. Patterson (26.1 percent) and Jerami Grant (31.4 percent) were particularly erratic, but OKC’s offensive dynamic will change when Westbrook returns. The Thunder, and particularly Westbrook, are capable of heeding Presti’s words. Taking away Melo’s jab-stepping long-range clanks alone will juice the shooting stats. Convincing Westbrook to surrender a handful of questionable shots per game is the next step. A few percentage points separate good from great in the NBA, and the Thunder can realistically make that leap.”

Erik Horne (Oklahoman) on Steven Adams and Nerlens Noel being high school basketball foes: “Nerlens Noel’s hair was a little taller. Steven Adams’ hair was a lot shorter. Even in grainy footage from 2012, the contrast was clear. Noel was repping Tilton (New Hampshire) in a dark black jersey with yellow letters and numbers, Adams fresh from New Zealand but playing for Notre Dame Prep (Massachusetts) in an unfamiliar No. 24. jersey, pristine white with black lettering. Both were swimming in their baggy tops, teenagers not yet filled out or close to certain about what was ahead, or that they’d reunite as teammates seven years later. Or that Noel would be learning from Adams as a pro. Or that Adams would find NBA inspiration from his high school battle with Noel. Six years later, as the Thunder’s regular season began Tuesday night against the Golden State Warriors in Oakland, Adams and Noel find themselves back where it started as high school players.”

Sam Amick (The Athletic) has the Thunder in his second tier of Western Conference teams: “Can (Alex) Abrines have a breakout year? Can Jerami Grant have a breakout year? How does Dennis Schroder fit in? There are so many question marks about the unproven guys. Is Terrance Ferguson going to be a guy who steps up? I just don’t know that they have the depth to be able to play with some of the (elite) teams in the Western Conference night in and night out. Now they’re going to be a playoff team, because those two guys (Westbrook and George) are that good that they’re going to carry them, barring injury. But the depth is a question. (And) without Roberson…that’s going to really be a tough hit on them defensively. But they have three really dynamic players (with Westbrook, George, and Steven Adams), and any time you have three really good players you’ve got a chance just about every game. But in the long run, I think the defense and the lack of depth is going to be tough for them.”

Carmelo Anthony discusses last season with ESPN’s Rachel Nichols: “I think challenging, a little bit. Of course, we had our good times, and we had our down times, but the best thing that I took from that situation was the way … like we had to just focus on, like, day to day, and trying to make it work and trying to make it a fit and trying to figure out what’s gonna happen and who’s gonna do what and where you’re gonna be at. And living in OKC. I felt like I never really kinda got my feet wet there and got settled in. I came the day before media day of the 25th hour, so everything was kind of a rush for me, to be able to go in and not know what’s going on, the surroundings, the new organization, new teammates, new players. But for the most part, people might think different, but I actually had a great time in OKC. I think being so close with Russ [Westbrook] and PG [Paul George], and then all the other guys on the team, and the organization was very helpful in trying to make the transition smoothly. I had a great time in OKC.”

New PG 2.5’s on the way:

Around the League: Burning questions for the 2018-19 season…. The Celtics took care of business against the Sixers…. Joel Embiid doesn’t see Celtics/Sixers as a rivalry yet…. The Warriors’ championship rings are reversible…. Can Anthony Davis go from great to greatest?…. Life in the Eastern Conference without LeBron…. Jimmy Butler will play in the Wolves’ season-opener…. The uncertain future of the Golden State Warriors.