5 min read

Wednesday Bolts: 3.20.19

Nick Gallo (okcthunder.com) previews tonight’s game against the Toronto Raptors: “There’s 11 games to play for the Thunder, with seven at home at Chesapeake Energy Arena, until what will hopefully be a postseason run that lasts deep into the spring. While it’s certainly coming down the final stretch of the season, there’s still plenty of time for the Thunder to break out of this current three-game losing streak and get back to its brand of basketball heading into the playoffs. In order to get started back on track, however, the Thunder will have to do it against one of the very best teams in the NBA. On Wednesday and Friday Head Coach Billy Donovan’s squad has a home-and-home with the Toronto Raptors, who have 50 wins already and sit in the second seed in the Western Conference. Instead of wasting time by worrying or being concerned with a tough stretch coming out of the All-Star Break, the Thunder stays focused on what it must do to get through to the other side of it. “I don’t know what worrying does in terms of what we have to do. We have a job to do and we have to get better,” Donovan said plainly. “I just don’t think you go through a season adversity-free. I don’t think you go through life adversity-free. If you look at any good team this year, they’ve probably had their moments where there’s been some significant struggles at some point in time. This happens to be our time where we’re going through this.”

Holly MacKenzie (Raptors.com) previews the game from the other side: “Toronto enters Wednesday’s game following a dominant 128-92 victory over the New York Knicks on Monday. The Thunder are hoping to bounce back after a 116-107 loss at home to the Miami Heat on Monday. Though Paul George had a game-high 31 points to go with nine rebounds, five assists, two steals and two blocked shots, the Thunder missed Russell Westbrook who missed the game due to a suspension after picking up his 16th technical of the season against the Golden State Warriors on Saturday.”

Tonight is Nick Collison’s night in OKC:

Royce Young (ESPN) sat down with Collison to discuss the jersey retirement and why KD should join him in the rafters some day: “When we first got to Oklahoma City, they moved everybody that was with Seattle, except me and obviously Kevin [Durant]. But it just seemed like I probably would’ve been one of those guys, given the stage of my career. That first year in Oklahoma City, that last year in Seattle, there were just a ton of trades, players moving in and out, reshuffling the deck — Sam [Presti] trying to position the team for the future. So I definitely thought at that time it could happen. After that, I just always ended up getting fair offers for extensions, and I never actually was a free agent until the very last summer. We were moving toward something. We were building and getting better, and I wanted a chance to win a championship with that group. They offered good, fair deals. I wasn’t just going to take whatever to stay, but it worked out, so I really had no reason to look elsewhere. It’s such a great thing to be in one place the whole time and be able to be with that group of people for so long and have the type of connections I have. A lot of people in the NBA don’t get that.”

Erik Horne (Oklahoman) on the legend of Collison’s two-man game: “According to Adams, Thunder players called Collison “The Wizard,” because of the now-retired forward’s passing mastery. Dribble handoffs. Backdoor brillance. Without prompting, Adams made a reference to Collison’s paring with a certain left-handed maestro who was moved to Houston. Pull up the videos, Adams said. “He’s just amazing when it comes to the two-man game,” Adams said of Collison. “If you go back and look to him and James Harden, just stupid.” Perfected in his pairing with Harden but established as a staple of his game long before, Collison’s ability in the two-man game quickly became the stuff of Thunder legend. When Collison has his number retired before Wednesday’s game against Toronto, memories of his passing acumen will flow through Chesapeake Energy Arena.”

Berry Tramel (Oklahoman) thinks Collison should talk some sense into Russell Westbrook while he’s in town: “Westbrook likes to be in control of most everything Thunder related, but the officiating is beyond his power. And it shows, not just in technical fouls but in bad shots and lax defense when frustration builds. Maybe Collison can get through to Westbrook that he’s got to settle down. The long-time teammates clearly have an affinity for each other and formed quite the leadership duo in the wake of Kevin Durant’s departure to Golden State. A teetering roster found its bearings because of Westbrook’s broad shoulders, with help from Collison’s veteran mentoring, and Paul George was impressed enough to sign on long-term. Westbrook even has shown signs of allowing himself to be coached a little bit. Billy Donovan has gotten Westbrook to massage his game over the last couple of years. But the 16th technical foul was a sign that Westbrook’s emotions still bust the dam from time to time, much to the detriment of the Thunder. No one in the state of Oklahoma seems to be able to get through to Westbrook. But maybe Collison can.”\

Dan Devine (Ringer) on the Thunder’s need to recalibrate: “Oklahoma City is dead last in the league in offensive efficiency since the All-Star break, according to Cleaning the Glass, which strips out garbage-time possessions and end-of-quarter heaves. No team has a worse effective field goal percentage since mid-February; the Thunder rank at or near the basement in finishing at the rim, on midrange looks, and from beyond the 3-point arc. George, the Thunder’s best and highest-volume marksman, is shooting just 37.8 percent from the field and 31.5 percent from 3-point range over his last 11 gamesas he deals with a sore right shoulder. Dennis Schröder (35.4 percent from the floor, 26.3 percent from long distance) and swingman Terrance Ferguson (37.2 percent and 28.8 percent, respectively) have struggled mightily, too. It’s reductive, but it’s true: If you can’t shoot, you’re in deep trouble.”

STUFF (New Zealand) on Steven Adams and his response to the Christchurch terrorist attack: “Adams admitted it was frustrating to be a Kiwi so far from home at a time like this, but said you had to trust these “right people making the right moves. Whatever it is, they’re going to have more of an impact than me, because they’re going to make a proper change,” he added. “They’re on the ground there. I’m a New Zealander from afar. It obviously absolutely sucks what happened to my country. That’s what hurts the most for me.”

Around the League: Doc Rivers says he’s not going to coach the Lakers…. The Nets erased a 25-point fourth quarter deficit to stun the Kings…. James Harden broke the single-season record for 3-point attempts…. Giannis Antetokounmpo is working on his 3-point shot because it’s the last infinity stone he needs to destroy life as we know it…. Tens of millions are at stake in the All-NBA sprint to the finish…. Why are NBA players wearing hoodies under their blazers?…. Recapping last night’s NBA action.