Nick Gallo (okcthunder.com) previews tonight’s game against the Warriors: “Even without three of its five perennial All-Stars suiting up the Warriors still have Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala in the rotation, which is plenty to drive any defense crazy. The Thunder believes in its own defensive principles, however, and Donovan knows that even amid the rotation chaos that can occur with players in and out due to injury, illness and personal matters, that the system can rise about the circumstance. The Thunder has proven as much this season, including the last 7 games when it has held foes to just 99.7 points per game, and just 101.4 points per 100 possessions. On the offensive side of the ball the same holds true. If the team is getting into offense quickly, if it is attacking downhill, putting pressure on the rim and finding open shooters, the chances are that the efficiency statistics are going to look just right by the final buzzer. Between Russell Westbrook, Paul George, Dennis Schröder and Steven Adams, the Thunder has plenty of firepower on its locker room as well. When it plays cohesively, the points can come in droves.”
Daniel Hardee (Golden State of Mind) previews tonight’s matchup from the other side: “Gold-blooded prediction: OKC wants to carve up the Warriors heading into Thanksgiving. Durant and Thompson want to show their injured All-Star teammates that the team is in good hands. This is going to be a physical battle with no love lost. The Oracle crowd will have to will the home team through this daunting challenge. KD, go ahead and get 40 and remind OKC why they hate the Dubs so much.”
Odds Shark on why you should bet on the Warriors to win and cover the spread: “The oddsmakers are saying a lot here in opening the Warriors as only one-point home favorites versus an opponent they have dominated for the most part recently. To put this in perspective, they have been home dogs just twice since 2014, and both times came on March 25 and 27 of last season when Curry, Durant, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green were all out due to injuries. Green (toe) is not expected to play in this game, either, but the others will be able to pick up the slack and help Durant beat his old team again. Bet on the Warriors to end their skid with a win and cover the spread.”
Injury Report: This is fine.
Adam Fromal (B/R) grades every team after the first month: “Oklahoma City Thunder — Grade: A. Between the recovery from arthroscopic knee surgery that delayed the start of his 2018-19 endeavors, a sprained ankle that knocked him back out of the lineup and the birth of his twin daughters, Russell Westbrook has suited up in just eight of the Oklahoma City Thunder’s first 16 games. That they’ve gone 10-6 is downright miraculous, as well as a testament to the inspired play of Paul George, Steven Adams and, to a lesser extent, the rest of the roster. Of course, it’s also notable that OKC has gone 5-3 with its star point guard logging minutes. Though it’s great that Jerami Grant and Nerlens Noel have been effective, or that Dennis Schroder has played solid basketball while replacing Westbrook, this season will hinge on the Thunder’s ability to maximize the talents of their leading triumvirate. If Westbrook, George and Adams can’t thrive together, they’re not getting by the elite teams in the Western Conference.”
Dan Devine (Ringer) has the Thunder among his top five most interesting teams in week six: “If the defense slips, even for a half, Oklahoma City can be had. If Schröder goes cold, an offense without many creators can stagnate. If Grant can’t go, the Thunder become awfully thin, especially if their crapshoot wings come up snake eyes. (Billy Donovan has gotten good minutes over the past two games from Timothé Luwawu-Cabarrot, and rookie Hamidou Diallo continues to impress; Ferguson and Abrines might want to get back and healthy ASAP.) The Thunder have an excellent top three, but they also don’t have much margin for error; they’ll have to readjust to life with Russ quickly if they want to keep pace in a crowded conference.”
Eyeball emoji szn: Tuesday’s interesting Instagram action. Never a dull moment.
Royce Young (ESPN) on why the Thunder don’t need Russell Westbrook to be superhuman anymore: “According to many inside the team, Westbrook’s buy-in, to this point, has been total and comprehensive. So much so that it has not necessarily been described as surprising but more affirming and uplifting. “Russ is the guy that wants us to be out there making plays,” George said. “Russ is not a stat guy. He wants us to be out there making plays, he wants the game to open up for everybody and you’re seeing that. You’re seeing that with myself, you’re seeing that with Schroder making plays.” The Thunder are playing more systematically, whereas in recent years Westbrook was the system. It’s why they can absorb him missing games; they are 5-3 this season without him, an inconceivable thought a couple years ago. In past seasons, when Westbrook sat, the Thunder dove headfirst off a cliff. So much of that had to do with the gravity Westbrook carries, and how much he did for everyone around him that when he went to the bench, nobody knew how to play without him. It’s part of the reason the Thunder traded for Schroder — to add a capable secondary handler and creator to spare Westbrook, to maintain a more stable identity and to alleviate some playmaking burden.”
Erik Horne (Oklahoman) on if Westbrook can sustain real change to his game: “For two seasons, Westbrook has been historically successful on offense. Each of those seasons have ended in first-round exits. In preseason, Westbrook was asked if the responsibility of fatherhood would have any effect on the maturation of his game. “It definitely can,” Westbrook said. “I think it does, actually. I think it does. You’ll see why it does.” Westbrook could have just been referring to his new “rock the baby” celebration. In his return to the court Monday, he fired ill-advised fadeaways and 3-pointers like the old days. But sandwiched into between those moments, there were times he cut baseline without the ball as Schroder facilitated. Instead of immediately firing a 3-pointer, Westbrook took a moment before working his way into a post-up or drive. Westbrook is thoughtful not just about his family, but his game. The guy who does what he wants is trying to do something different.”
Around the League: Kevin Durant says the Draymond situation won’t impact his free agency…. Durant was fined $25k for telling a fan to “shut the f*** up”…. JR Smith has left the Cavs while waiting for a trade…. Kevin Love expects to be back after the new year…. The Markelle Fultz situation is getting really odd in Philly…. The Grizzlies and their return to Grit ‘n Grind…. Recapping last night’s NBA action.