5 min read

Wednesday Bolts: 2.28.18

Wednesday Bolts: 2.28.18

Nick Gallo previews tonight’s Thunder @ Mavericks match-up: “As the games roll along and weeks bleed into months the games check off an NBA schedule with the rapidity of a car rambling past mile markers on I-35. Suddenly, the Thunder has less than a quarter of the season remaining. In the 63rd game of the regular season or the 35-27 Thunder, it will square off against the regional rival Dallas Mavericks, a scrappy squad with a lot of pride regardless of the talent or experience level on the roster. This road tilt commences a stretch of three games in four nights on the road for the Thunder, part of a crucial juncture in the team’s playoff chase.”

Rob Mahoney (SI) on Paul George’s partnership with Russell Westbrook: ” Surely it is not lost on George that this might be his best role. His offense alone can help carry a decent playoff team through a hard-fought series, but the best course forward calls for a teammate like Westbrook. Taking the burdens of high-volume creation off of George’s plate allows him to play a leaner, sharper game. It activates his devastating work off the ball and energizes his defense. It gives his every move an even greater charge. There is both room for George to do more, if the situation calls for it, and a structure that moderates that need. Whether that—and this trial season in OKC in general—is enough for George is really only a matter of preference.”

Fred Katz on the state of the Thunder: “It’s beaten Golden State multiple times. It’s 1-0 against Houston, 1-1 against San Antonio, 1-3 against Minnesota, 1-0 against Toronto, 0-1 against Boston, 1-1 against Cleveland and 1-1 against Washington The offense has climbed from 25th in points per possession on Dec. 16 to the top half of the league today. The defense has maintained inside the top 10, though it’s slid since perimeter stifler Andre Roberson’s season-ending knee injury. The Thunder are one of just four teams (along with Golden State, Houston and Toronto) with a realistic chance to end the year top 10 in both offense and defense. They have the profile of a team that can make noise. They also have the profile of a team that may not. The Thunder Paradox. It’s real.”

Michael Pina (VICE Sports) on Steven Adams officially being a star: “Next up is Steven Adams, Oklahoma City’s true third wheel and a strategy-altering force on the offensive glass. Watching Adams over the last few weeks, it’s clear that he’s so much more than a harmonious role player. The 24-year-old may be solidifying himself as an authentic star before our very eyes. How many centers are more indispensable? Joel Embiid and…is that it? It’s one of the more significant narrative arcs to emerge this season. Powerful enough to alter Oklahoma City’s trajectory in a very favorable way over the next few years. For now, Adams’s lumberjackian strength takes over games whenever he sets a screen 28 feet from the rim or wedges in-between two opponents who need a cattle prod to box him out. His touch from just outside the restricted area makes him a hypnotically reliable roll man, and he’s become an agile razor wire on the defensive end.”

Erik Horne, Brett Dawson & Berry Tramel did a Thunder roundtable in regard to playoff seeding: “The door is wide open for Oklahoma City to make a push into third, but the Thunder’s body of work — particularly since Andre Roberson was lost for the season — doesn’t suggest it’s going to lock in for an extended run. OKC is too unreliable against inferior opponents and has too many games against high-level ones to think that it’ll find a level of consistency that it hasn’t had all year. Regardless of seed, this is a dangerous playoff team. The trick is staying in the picture as the teams at the bottom of the race surge ahead.”

Adam Fromal (B/R) on why Russell Westbrook needs to be more efficient: “Far too frequently, the Oklahoma City Thunder point guard grabs a defensive rebound and jets down the court before deciding to take an ill-advised pull-up jumper in transition. The shot will inevitably clang off the backboard before falling harmlessly into the outstretched mits of the opposition. On the season as a whole, Westbrook is shooting 27.1 percent on pull-up triples, but that’s apparently not enough incentive for him to break this troublesome habit.  Unfortunately for OKC, he hasn’t been much better in spot-up situations, either. Westbrook’s overall three-point percentage is a miserable 29.1 percent. Combine that with his penchant for lofting up shots (4.4 per game from downtown), and you have a recipe for the least valuable contributions from beyond the arc, outpacing Pascal Siakam (minus-53.86 value added) by a slim margin. But the trouble doesn’t stop there.”

Moke Hamilton (USA Today) on Carmelo Anthony addressing his career-worst shooting numbers: “As far as those numbers and shooting numbers, I could care less about that,” he said. “Five or 10 years from now, you guys won’t be thinking about no ‘Melo’s first year in Oklahoma City, he shot 34 percent,’ that’s not something that I’m concerned about. I didn’t come here because I was thinking about having a higher shooting percentage.”

Berry Tramel on why Paul George isn’t getting the calls he wants: “This is not a Paul George issue. Or a Russell Westbrook issue. This is a basketball-is-changing issue. Jumpshooters – and the 3-point shots they launch – have become more precious than gold. That’s not to say jumpshooters are pretty boys. You can get hurt on the perimeter. Public Enemy No. 1 ZaZa Pachulia stepped under Kawhi Leonard last May, Leonard fell awkwardly and the course of the NBA was changed, including that Golden State-San Antonio Western Conference Finals series and this San Antonio season. But the point remains. Jumpshooters are to be protected to the max. Drivers in the paint, you’re on your own.”

Nicola Fumo (Forbes) on Russell Westbrook’s new clothing line: “The collection is inspired by — and titled — Inner City, an ode to Westbrook’s upbringing in the Los Angeles neighborhood Hawthorne. Comprised of graphic T-shirts, crewneck sweatshirts, hats, and socks, the unisex streetwear ranges in price from $20 for the socks to $98 for a heavy fleece pullover hoodie, with everything made in Los Angeles. Fans in LA for All-Star Weekend were able to shop the collection in advance of its e-comm release at a one-day pop-up shop held February 19th at 0321C’s Back Alley location in the Arts District. That’s where I gained a whopping two minutes and 53 seconds of Westbrook’s time to discuss the new collection.”

Around the League: LeBron secured a triple-double average for the month of February…. Dwyane Wade wore shoes to honor a Parkland victim and sunk the game-winner…. Paul Millsap played for the first time since November…. LeBron called the NCAA “corrupt”…. Remembering Drazen Petrovic…. Robert Swift and the pursuit to reclaim his life.