Nick Gallo (okcthunder.com) previews tonight’s home game against the Indiana Pacers: “In a league centered around ball movement, manufacturing three-pointers and taking jump shots, the Thunder has incorporated a few other ways to win on the margins as a part of its playing style. On each given night, including on Wednesday against the Indiana Pacers, a key for the Thunder is to generate more field goal attempts than the opposition, which can be done in a variety of ways – on defense, offense and on loose balls. So far this season, Head Coach Billy Donovan’s club has done that, ranking first in the NBA in field goal attempts per game. “Every team has a formula of how we’ve got to play,” Donovan said. “For us, I think it’s really simple. We’re a really good offensive rebounding team. Well, we’ve got to be a really good defensive rebounding team because it gets us out on the break – we generate the second-most transition points in the league. So if we’re fouling and we’re taking the ball out of the net, we’re not going to be able to play to our strengths. If we’re giving up offensive rebounds, that doesn’t play to our strengths,” Donovan continued.”
Wheat Hotchkiss (Pacers.com) previews the game from the other side: “The Pacers will head to Oklahoma City on Wednesday looking for their first road win in more than a month (their last victory away from The Fieldhouse came on Feb. 23 at Washington). After taking on Paul George and the Thunder, they will travel to Boston for a showdown with the Celtics, their likely opponent in the first round of the playoffs. The Thunder (43-31) will be out for revenge after the Blue & Gold stunned them two weeks ago in Indianapolis, rallying from a 19-point deficit to pull off an improbable 108-106 win. That game started a mini-tailspin for the Thunder, who have dropped five of their last six games, with their only win in that span curiously coming at Toronto.”
Current Western Conference standings: Thunder up a spot.
Erik Horne (Oklahoman) on the Thunder needing more efficiency in their areas of strength: “The Thunder is fifth in the NBA in fast-break points per game (18.1) and third in second-chance points (15.1). Even in the Thunder’s 6-11 post-All-Star break slump, those numbers haven’t dropped off much, as OKC ranks first in second-chance points (16.9) and seventh in fast-break points (16.4) in the last 17 games. A major issue for the Thunder in its drought, and frankly all season, has been efficiency. The Thunder scores a high volume of transition and second-chance points, but takes more attempts to get its numbers. The Thunder is tied for the third-most transition possessions per game in the NBA (23.1), but only scores 1.04 points per possession, which is 28th in the league. It’s 10th in possessions with a putback in the NBA (6.4) per game, but averages 0.97 points per putback, tied for 27th in the NBA.”
Cody Taylor (Thunder Wire) with Royce Young’s comments about Dennis Schroder’s future in OKC: “Young: I don’t think any significant changes, like core changes, would be coming. I do think a player like Dennis Schroder is gonna be somebody that they might look to move in the offseason. They kinda traded for him to see — they view him as a re-tradable asset. I don’t think that he’s gonna play out his contract in OKC.”
The NBA.com staff discusses Defensive Player of the Year: “This doesn’t necessarily reflect my actual ballot, to be cast in a couple weeks, but right now I’ve got it Rudy Gobert, Paul George and Giannis Antetokounmpo. “The Greek Freak’s” length and activity on defense bolster his Kia MVP case and the Bucks are first in defensive rating. But it really is a group effort for Milwaukee, with center Brook Lopez and pest Eric Bledsoe equally important. George played this season (when healthy) as if challenging himself to be the NBA’s best two-way player. Gobert, though, is the only guy with a chance to repeat, a common trend with this award through the years. His blocked shots have ticked slightly down, but that’s due to awareness and respect, the way base runners don’t test certain outfielders’ rifle arms.”
Berry Tramel (Oklahoman) on the warmth of Billy Donovan’s seat after the recent slide: “On the Thunder’s first defensive possession of the first quarter, Russell Westbrook, without the help of a screen or a potential drive or really any Memphis Grizzly who might be mistaken for a serious offensive threat, fell asleep and let Delon Wright roam free for an easy layup. On the Thunder’s first offensive possession of the fourth quarter, OKC down eight, Paul George haphazardly bounced a behind-the-back pass to, well, not really sure who. That pass wouldn’t have worked against the Washington Generals. Justin Holiday scooped it up for a dunk that ignited a strong finish for the Grizzlies. Soon enough, a Zombie Memphis team had a 115-103 victory, and the Thunder and its too-cool-for-school attitude had its 12th loss in 18 games over six weeks. Sort of made me wonder. Are these guys trying to get Billy Donovan fired?”
Around the League: The Bucks beat the Rockets in a battle of MVP contenders…. Adidas took out a full-page James Harden ad in a Milwaukee newspaper…. Chris Bosh had his jersey retired in Miami…. Lonzo Ball covered up his BBB tattoo, so it must be really over…. Jusuf Nurkic is expected to make a full recovery…. Is this season the beginning of the end for LeBron James?…. The Clippers have locked up a playoff spot…. Kris Humphries wrote an article titled I Never Wanted to Be That Guy.