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Wednesday Bolts: 10.31.18

Royce Young (ESPN) on last night’s Thunder win over the Clippers: “But the second half against the Clippers looked like what the Thunder want to be. Westbrook drives everything the Thunder do emotionally, George fills in the efficiency gaps with smooth, steady scoring, and the defense swarms and creates running opportunities. George started slow Tuesday night, but once Westbrook revved his engine, George came to life with 22 of his 32 in the second half. The Thunder spent the offseason tweaking the roster, with a key subtraction and key addition, fine tuning to try and fit the identity Westbrook dictates and the one coach Billy Donovan prefers. They want to play with speed and tempo, making quick decisions and relentlessly attacking defenses. It’s not that Tuesday’s game is the formula, but it is a glimpse into the logic. “I’m not saying it’s sustainable to hold a team to 10 points a quarter, but you have to play,” Donovan said. “That’s what it takes.”

Nick Gallo (okcthunder.com) recaps the Thunder win: “Westbrook’s fiery, relentless energy was the catalyst for the Thunder, part of a truly classic Chesapeake Energy Arena night in many regards. Westbrook’s brute force and tenacity resulted in countless bounding barrages into the paint. The constant pressure opened up opportunities for a varied offensive approach in the second half. Westbrook dished out 7 of his 8 assists in the second half, including a pair to Steven Adams in the fourth quarter that helped keep this one out of reach. George shined brightest in the fourth quarter, when he scored 11 points, knocking down all four of his field goals and all three free throws. By getting to his spot on the right elbow, using his body strength, height and length to snare the ball away from Clippers defensive ace Avery Bradley’s grasp, George got himself into his scoring zone. “I just took my time, got to spots I wanted to, didn’t play around with the ball,” described George (32 points, 12 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 blocks). “I told Russ, ‘I’m not going to be moving around up here. I’m going to get to a spot and just raise up and shoot over.’”

Brett Dawson (Athletic) on another Russell Westbrook/Patrick Beverley clash: “Thunder fans went home happy on Tuesday, the home team a 128-110 winner against L.A. But as OKC was blitzing the Clippers in the second half, Beverley opened some old wounds. It happened with 6:20 to play in the fourth quarter, when — if you ask the Clippers — Beverley dove in pursuit of a loose ball and collided with Russell Westbrook’s legs. Westbrook had lost his dribble off the back of his foot and was scrambling to recover it. Beverley came from the top of the key to give chase, but as Westbrook recovered the ball, Beverley dove and took out Westbrook’s legs. The Thunder dispute that it was a loose-ball pursuit, and though the dive earned Beverley a flagrant-1 foul, it’s impossible to prove his intent. But the collision isn’t in question. Beverley hit Westbrook low. And though the Thunder star was none the worse for wear, the play was a little too familiar for comfort.”

A replay of the Beverley/Westbrook incident for anyone who missed it:

Erik Horne (Oklahoman) on the Thunder using defense to flip the game: “Then came that third quarter. The best quarter in Thunder history, by point margin. The Thunder committed just four fouls. The Clippers shot no foul shots and made no 3-pointers. “The first half was for us extremely choppy,” Billy Donovan said. “We fouled a lot. Never really got into any flow. Coming out, our guys did an incredible job in the third defensively.” The Thunder started running. Transition baskets. Flowing offense. Confident shooting. A cavalcade of Thunder blessings, all sparked by defense played within the new, maddening rules. The Thunder did less reaching and more moving. Jerami Grant and Paul George, Russell Westbrook and Terrance Ferguson, made life miserable for the Clipper ballhandlers; LA had eight turnovers in that period alone. Clipper sharpshooter Danilo Gallinari scored 23 points in the first half and it seemed like 43. But he didn’t make a basket in the second half until barely five minutes remained in the game.”

Highlights from the win over the Clippers:

Jon Hamm (B/R) on patience being the key for the slow-starting Thunder: “A cynic would say that Oklahoma City’s players are left open for a reason: a perceived lack of overall shooting skill. But even the skilled shooters are missing. Sniper Alex Abrines is shooting only 31 percent from the field. Star forward Paul George finally caught fire against the Suns, but he’s still shooting only 40 percent from the field and 32 percent from three overall. “I don’t know of any player that, when the shot goes up, he doesn’t want it to go in,” Donovan said prior to the Celtics game. It stands to reason that the law of averages will eventually nudge these numbers up if the quality of shots continues to sustain. “It’s not like this is the first time these guys have gone through slumps in their careers.” Donovan also pointed out that there is a lot of undue scrutiny on the team’s shooting right now: “If it was games, like, 30 through 34 … people probably wouldn’t say very much. But because it’s the first four games there’s such a focus on it.”

Marc J. Spears (Undefeated) on Paul George’s real hometown of Palmdale, CA: “George, the five-time NBA All-Star, grew up on the east side of Palmdale, which he said was predominantly black and Hispanic. There were some neighborhood challenges here too. Cheaper housing didn’t always equal more employment opportunities, as Palmdale’s median income was $53,922 and 21.2 percent of the population lived below the poverty line, according to the U.S. Census Bureau in 2016. George’s father worked blue-collar jobs for a rim company and as a carpenter, and his mother was a homemaker. For Paul George, there wasn’t much for him and his two older sisters (Portala, who played volleyball at Cal State-San Bernardino, and Teiosha, who played basketball at Pepperdine University and professionally in Germany) to do growing up in the “aerospace capital of the world.” There was Antelope Valley Mall as a hangout spot, the movies, bowling alleys and small entertainment attractions. This wasn’t Los Angeles, and George did not visit there much as a kid.”

Greatest Halloween costumes ever?:

Around the League: Mike D’Antoni says the 1-5 Rockets have lost their swagger…. Should the Rockets go all-in on Jimmy Butler?…. Recap of last night’s NBA action…. How DeMar DeRozan learned to embrace the Spurs…. Joakim Noah is ready for his NBA comeback…. Who do the Warriors fear?…. Derrick Rose on his strange, adversity-filled time in the NBA.