Nick Gallo (okcthunder.com) previews tonight’s Thunder/Nets match-up: “On Monday night, the strategy was to rush over an additional defender to stop any forward progress on the block, then spray back out into the lane and to the three-point line to deny passes and contest shots. The Thunder almost never likes to bring two defenders to the ball down low if possible, but against the Detroit Pistons, it was required. Wednesday against the Brooklyn Nets, a different game plan will be necessary. That’s no problem for this young-but-experienced Thunder roster, one that can run the floor and bang down low with the best of them. Whatever is required on a given night, it’s clear Head Coach Billy Donovan will get it from his team defensively.”
Tom Dowd (Nets.com) previews the game from the other side: “The Nets close out their seven-of-eight home stretch with Oklahoma City Wednesday and Toronto on Friday. The Thunder are 15-7 and third in the Western Conference, while the Raptors lead the Eastern Conference with a 20-5 record. Then it’s a rivalry game at the Knicks and a trip down to Philadelphia, where the Sixers are 17-8 and third in the East. “We can’t look at it,” said Kenny Atkinson of the schedule. “Let’s play well against Oklahoma City. Let’s get another chance. If I start looking ahead at the schedule, because I think every team’s really good. Cleveland, when you talk about (Jordan) Clarkson and Tristan Thompson and Rodney Hood, I have such respect for the NBA player that every team scares the heck out of me. Every team, we’re an underdog and that’s the way I look at it. I have the appropriate fear of this league that every game is tough.”
Russell Westbrook’s appearance on last night’s airing of The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon: Explains “Rock The Baby”, shows off the Westbrook 0.3, and more.
Erik Horne (Oklahoman) on how self-correction got the Thunder rolling: “The Thunder has become a different team from last season, not just by coaches’ adjustments, but players fixing in-game issues on the fly. “Self-correction,” is what Donovan calls it. In no quarter has the Thunder fixed itself more from last season to now than the third. Entering Wednesday’s game against Brooklyn, the Thunder is the No. 1 team in the NBA in third-quarter point differential, outscoring its opponents this season by 97 points. Last season through 22 games, the Thunder was a negative-90 in the third quarter. In a year, the Thunder has swung from one of the worst teams in the league out of halftime to the best.”
Horne on why quick hands are the key to OKC’s defensive success: “The Thunder is forcing turnovers on 17.3 percent of opponents’ possessions, the highest rate in the league. Much of the success comes down to quick hands, as the Thunder is third in deflections (15.4) and second in loose balls recovered (10.6) per game. “I think we have really good anticipatory players,” Thunder coach Billy Donovan said. “Our defensive numbers are really good, but make no mistake about it, we’ve got talented defensive players. Terrance (Ferguson) is a good defensive player. Russell (Westbrook), Paul (George), Steven (Adams), Jerami (Grant), you go down the line. Even Dennis has done a great job off the bench.”
Cody Taylor (Thunder Wire) on Russell Westbrook’s move up the Sonics/Thunder all-time scoring list: “Russell Westbrook needs just 64 points to pass Kevin Durant on the Thunder all-time scoring list and take sole possession of second place. Once Westbrook passes Durant, he’ll trail only Gary Payton for the all-time lead in Thunder/SuperSonics history and, barring major injury, Westbrook should be able to do so later this season.”
Frank Urbina (Hoops Hype) on each team’s most untradable contract: “ANDRE ROBERSON: THREE YEARS, $30 MILLION. It’s not his fault, but Andre Roberson hasn’t been able to live up to the contract he signed in the summer of 2017. It’s a shame, too, because paying a defender of Roberson’s caliber just $10 million per year would have been a steal for the Oklahoma City Thunder. And early on last season, Roberson’s contract did look like a steal. Even though he was averaging just 5.0 points per game, the Thunder had a +9.9 swing rating with him on the floor, proving just how invaluable his defense was to the lineup. Unfortunately, Roberson suffered a ruptured patella tendon 10 months ago that he still hasn’t been able to bounce back from. After a series of setbacks, we still have yet to see Roberson hit the floor in 2018-19.”
Around the League: Markelle Fultz and the mysterious thoracic outlet syndrome…. Trae Young Q&A with SI…. Joakim Noah is officially a member of the Grizzlies…. Trevor Ariza is likely to hit the market soon…. Recapping last night’s NBA action…. Luka Doncic is an absolute star…. Pascal Siakam’s difficult road to the NBA…. Kyle Lowry opens up about the DeMar DeRozan trade…. Are the Knicks planning to trade for John Wall?…. How one night in NYC changed Thabo Sefolosha’s life.