5 min read

Wednesday Bolts: 11.28.18

Nick Gallo (okcthunder.com) previews tonight’s home game against the Cavs: “At the end of last week, the Thunder had rattled off 12 wins in 14 games, including two victories surrounding Thanksgiving to start off a stretch of three games in four nights. After coming back at 4:30 a.m. on Thanksgiving morning from the West Coast, the Thunder took care of business in crunch time on Friday against the Hornets, then came up short of a massive comeback against the Denver Nuggets. Since then, the team has had a well-deserved Sunday off and a pair of practices at the Thunder Ion to set up Wednesday’s rematch with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Just a few weeks ago, Head Coach Billy Donovan’s shorthanded club beat the Cavaliers on the road, but since then this young Cleveland squad has beaten the Houston Rockets and Philadelphia 76ers, changed up the lineup and gone full steam into a youth movement, which includes starting point guard, rookie Collin Sexton.”

Tonight’s early injury report:

Chris Fedor (Cleveland.com) on George Hill’s possible return tonight against OKC: “George Hill played four-on-four with teammates and coaches, taking contact once again, prior to the Cleveland Cavaliers leaving for their two-game road trip Tuesday afternoon.  He’s “progressing,” according to head coach Larry Drew. Hill could even make his return Wednesday night against Oklahoma City, a team source told cleveland.com. As the next step, the Cavs had Hill go through the post-practice contact session and is expected to take part in Wednesday’s shootaround in Oklahoma City. His official status will be determined after that, as the training staff wants to see how Hill responds after two straight days of on-court work.”

Maddie Lee (Oklahoman) on this season’s start compared to 2017-18: “The Thunder infamously limped to an 8-12 start last season, setting off alarm bells about a team with high expectation after the additions of Paul George and Carmelo Anthony. This season, with its 20th game on the horizon, OKC has endured injuries to Russell Westbrook and a decimation of the Thunder’s shooting guard corps, again due to injuries. Still, the Thunder has already recorded 12 wins. “We were just trying to find out who we were as a team and get an identity down,” George said of the Thunder this time last season. “I feel this year we have an identity and know who we are as a team.” For Thunder coach Billy Donovan, that identity includes, among other things, defending the 3-point line efficiently and hurting opposing teams in transition. He commended his team for its resilience and efforts to play to an identity, adding, “I think there’s room for us to get better in that identity.”

Clay Horning (Norman Transcript) on Thunder denial: “Everybody can see it, everybody can feel it: Westbrook relishes the opportunity to do it himself, now, too much to let it pass. And the majority of the time, by taking that opportunity, he kills the Thunder’s opportunity. It has happened twice this season, first against Boston, Oklahoma City’s fourth loss to begin the season, and Saturday. Thunder coach Billy Donovan was asked specifically about Westbrook’s shot selection afterward. “I’ll go back and look at the film,” he said. “A lot of them were catch and shoot.” Except they weren’t. Most came in those moments the entire arena can sense Westbrook’s temptation to do something ill-advised. Donovan then said that Westbrook, like anybody, would probably want some of his shots back, who wouldn’t? He then segued to the need to get to the free throw line and he then said this. “Some of the 3s were good and some of them, honestly, probably weren’t so good,” he offered. “And I wouldn’t put that in Russell’s lap. I’d put that in our whole team’s lap.” Donovan might be the only one.”

Bobby Marks (ESPN) on underrated moves that made the biggest impact: “Oklahoma City Not Stretching Melo: The Oklahoma City Thunder did something in August with the Carmelo Anthony that the New York Knicks elected not to do with Joakim Noah. Instead of stretching the $27.3 million owed to Anthony over three seasons and creating significant financial savings, GM Sam Presti took the soon-to-be-dead cap space and turned it into Dennis Schroder. The $9.3 million that would have been a sunk cost with Anthony counting against the cap is now a $15.5 million guard who can play with Russell Westbrook or start if needed. Because the Thunder are capped out, they would not been able to sign a player like Schroder if he were a free agent in 2019. Schroder has played a critical role in the success of the Thunder, especially with Westbrook missing six games with a sprained ankle. The guard has averaged 30.1 MPG, 17.3 PPG, 5.2 APG and OKC is 8.7 points per 100 possessions better with him on the floor.”

Nick Gallo with a dive into 2018-19 Thunder stats: “In late November the Thunder stands at 12-7 as it approaches the quarter mark of the 2018-19 campaign. Conventional wisdom states that a team’s identity comes into shape by around the 20-game mark, which for the Thunder will come this Wednesday, Nov. 28 against the Cleveland Cavaliers. Through the first month and a half of the year, here’s where the Thunder ranks amongst the rest of the NBA. All stats per 48 minutes unless denoted otherwise.”

Erik Horne (Oklahoman) on Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot getting his shot alongside his NBA role model: “He’ll never tell Paul George to his face, but Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot’s secret is out. George knew the secret before Luwawu-Cabarrot started talking glowingly about him this past weekend. What began with Luwawu-Cabarrot watching George grow into an All-Star on another continent has turned an unexpected reality. “That’s my favorite player,” Luwawu-Cabarrot told The Oklahoman. “ … but I’m probably never going to tell him.” Luwawu-Cabarrot is on the same roster as his NBA role model, who’s been a mentor for him since TLC’s arrival from Philadelphia. “I knew of myself being a player that he looked up to since he was in Philly,” George said Tuesday. “I try to give as much as I can, whether it’s Tim, Terrance (Ferguson) or Hami (Hamidou Diallo). I enjoy having conversations with the younger guys here. Not to say that I’m old or nothing like that, but I’ve kinda been around the league for a little bit.”

Frank Urbina (HoopsHype) compares/contrasts Russell Westbrook and Oscar Robertson: “Most of the comparisons between Russell Westbrook and Oscar Robertson are borne of the fact they’re the only two players in league history to average a triple-double over an entire season, with the former accomplishing the feat in 2016-17 and 2017-18 and the latter pulling it off 55 years prior, in 1961-62. But there are other reasons to compare the two unforgettable floor generals. For starters, the two are (or were) ferocious rebounders despite their stature. They also regularly display (or displayed) feats of ball-handling wizardry, which more often than not leaves (or left) opposing defenders folded over in their wake. Both players love to pull-up on drives into high-rising mid-range jumpers, and neither was much of a defender. Their career numbers, to this point, are pretty similar.”

Around the League: Recapping last night’s NBA action…. How the Clippers vaulted to the top of the West…. LeBron James has taken control of the Lakers…. Five intriguing NBA stats…. The NBA is employing more female coaches than any other major American sports league…. Steve Nash has aspirations to become a head coach or GM…. Why the Celtics have the best shot at landing Anthony Davis.