6 min read

Wednesday Bolts: 2.7.18

Wednesday Bolts: 2.7.18

Royce Young on last night’s blowout win over the Warriors: “After four straight losses, the Thunder were appearing to stagger in the wake of Andre Roberson’s injury. And while Westbrook might not have had something a little extra geared up, there’s no question that against the Warriors, in their building, he really wanted this one, pushing the Thunder to a rousing 125-105 win. He finished with 34 points, 9 rebounds and 9 assists, and as in the first meeting with the Warriors, ended the game watching the final buzzer with a towel around his neck on the bench.”

Nick Gallo recaps the monster victory: “This resilient bunch just kept on playing. Westbrook was the clear leader, playing a sensational first quarter in which he scored 21 points, tying a season-high for a quarter, while making 9-of-11 field goals in the period. Westbrook scored off his patented banked-in wing jumpers, high-arching shots at the elbow and soaring attacks to the rim after beating defenders off the bounce. When Golden State attempted to neutralize him, he simply shifted gears to get his teammates involved, and he finished with nine assists and nine rebounds to go with 34 points on 13-for-26 shooting.”

Russell Westbrook & Paul George highlights:

Royce on Carmelo Anthony’s sprained right ankle: “The Oklahoma City Thunder power forward initially remained in the game and was said to be available to return after going to the locker room to get his ankle re-taped. His ankle proved to be sorer than previously thought, however, and Anthony was ruled out for the rest of the game… Anthony finished with zero points on 0 of 4 shooting and an assist in six minutes. Asked how he was feeling, Anthony said, “Like I’ve got an ankle sprain.” The Thunder play the Lakers in Los Angeles on Thursday, and Anthony said it’s too early to tell if he’ll be available for that one.”

Connor Letourneau (SF Gate) on KD saying Andre Roberson is the best defender in the NBA: “He’s “probably the best” defender in the league, said Durant, who is an early candidate for Defensive Player of the Year. “His lateral release, his quickness. He’s got long arms, and he’s strong. He’s just smart. He’s just an athlete, one of those athletes who enjoys trying to keep up with the fastest and best players. He takes that challenge on. They’re definitely going to miss him on the defensive side of the ball.”

Michael Lee (Yahoo) on Russell Westbrook’s belief: “I was always Russ. I was always Russ,” Westbrook told Yahoo Sports. “That’s what people don’t understand.” Russ is always going to be Russ, but there are different variants. And the lit, explosive one who has re-entered the MVP conversation over the past few months — the one who can put the team on his back and stuff stats while also letting George have some go-to-guy glory — is the one the Thunder will need to reach their desired return to relevance. Oklahoma City has been one of the more confusing teams this season, repeatedly following encouraging stretches that turn doubters into believers with head-scratchers that do the opposite. Through the sometimes maddening starts and stops, Westbrook has never given up on the potential of this group. “Always got confidence,” Westbrook told Yahoo Sports. “Never lose confidence in my teammates and myself. It’s ups and downs during the season, and I believe in these guys more than anything in the world.”

SBN Studios looks at Paul George, Russell Westbrook and their ability to steal the basketball: “George has the perfect size and skillset to disrupt would-be ballhandlers and passers — long arms, quick feet, perfect timing. He can pick your pocket without fouling you. He can trail you around any screen. He can pluck a high pass right out of the air. And while Russ isn’t the strongest overall defender, his turnover-forcing efforts are among the best in the NBA. Russ has terrific sense for offensive flow at this point in his career, and thus can disrupt it by combining that learned prescience with a super-athletic ability to get his body anywhere he wants it to with more speed and vigor than anyone else on Earth. Put them side by side and you’ve basically walled off half the court.”

Jon Hamm (B/R) on if the Thunder can be buyers before tomorrow’s trade deadline: “Offseason swaps to acquire George and Anthony depleted the Thunder’s treasure chest. Oklahoma City traded future first-round picks in previous deals for Enes Kanter and Jerami Grant. It can’t trade another first-rounder until at least 2022. The Thunder have all their own second-round picks available to deal, including a conditional 2018 second rounder from Boston. Oklahoma City gets that pick if Boston finishes with one of the five best records in the league. Second-year guard Alex Abrines ($5.7 million) and veteran Patrick Patterson ($5.2 million) own the largest salaries among players likely available. Kyle Singler’s $4.7 million salary could be useful stuffing to make trade math work, but another team would also have to absorb his $5 million salary next season. Several sub-$2 million prospects are also available, including Ferguson, Grant, Josh Huestis and Dakari Johnson.”

Kevin O’Connor (Ringer) on the Thunder looking for its missing piece before the deadline: “The trade deadline might end up being a bust for the Thunder. Their targets appear either unattainable or underwhelming. But no matter what happens, the roster will be very pricey. The team’s payroll is currently $132 million, and, assuming a 34-year-old Anthony opts in, is projected at $115 million for next season even before George makes his decision. With the team’s payroll soaring into the luxury tax, it won’t be any easier to make additions moving forward. But Presti already made his big decisions last summer by acquiring George and Anthony. If he’s unable to fill out the roster around them in the wake of Roberson’s injury, will all of his hard work go to waste?”

The SI NBA team discusses how to replace to irreplaceable: “You know, the makeup. The best-schooled, hardest-working defender can’t do what Roberson does because they probably don’t have a 6-11 wingspan. And they definitely don’t have his instincts. Roberson’s raw materials, both physically and mentally, are perfectly suited for locked-in defense. So he became a stopper—the latest in a long line of specialists whose primary job is to terrorize top scorers. It’s difficult, it’s thankless and it’s the difference between winning and losing games that matter.”

There’s interest in Terrance Ferguson:

Erik Horne on the deadline putting Jerami Grant’s future in question: “You have to give to get in the NBA, and there’s a conundrum the Thunder faces with Grant at the trade deadline at 2 p.m. Thursday. Do you trade a player of his skill set and his value, or do you keep him, either letting him walk at season’s end or skyrocket your luxury tax even higher? The Thunder exercised Grant’s option in June before the start of free agency, locking in his contract for $1.5 million this season, but at the same time making him an unrestricted free agent in 2018. Even before the Thunder acquired Paul George and Carmelo Anthony via trades, it was going to be above the salary cap in 2017-18. At the end of the season, having Grant as a restricted free agent would have placed OKC at the mercy of the market while staring at a luxury tax bill of $24.5 million.”

Around the League: Kristaps Porzingis tore his ACL…. Lou Williams is nearing an extension with the Clippers…. LeBron James will not waive his no-trade clause…. The Greek Freak jumped over a Knick en route to a dunk last night.