4 min read

Wednesday Bolts: 3.28.18

Brett Dawson with an updated look at the Western Conference playoff race: “Both San Antonio and Oklahoma City will enter Thursday’s game coming off a loss. The Spurs did the Thunder a favor, losing their second straight game to fall to 14-24 on the road… A bad sign for Denver: it’s two games out of the playoffs with seven games to play. A worse one: after Tuesday’s loss, coach Michael Malone questioned his team’s sense of urgency, saying, “Every damn play matters, and we’re not playing like every play matters.”

FiveThirtyEight has OKC as a 98 percent lock to make the playoffs: “Elo ratings are a measure of team strength based on head-to-head results, margin of victory and quality of opponent, while our CARMELO projections estimate a player’s future performance based on the trajectory of other, similar NBA players. Our CARM-Elo ratings, which power the forecast model, blend these two metrics to measure a team’s quality based on both its game results and its roster. This forecast is based on 50,000 simulations of the rest of the season and accounts for team fatigue, travel distance to games, and home courts with higher altitudes. In forecasting the playoffs, the model also gives a bonus to teams with more playoff experience on their roster.”

Fred Katz on Paul George’s annual slump month: “George called this particular stretch a “brutal” one. But at least his inconsistency is consistent. Slump months are part of a career-long trend. The 2016-17 slump month was a February when he shot 39 percent from the field. The 2015-16 slump month was December; 2013-14’s was March; 2012-13’s came over a 16-game span from Mar. 15 through the end of the season. (He missed all but six games of 2014-15 because of a broken leg.) George didn’t shoot better than 40 percent during any of the slump months and posted an unimpressive true shooting of either 50 or 51 percent during each of them. The odd part, of course, is the inexplicability of it. And questions have continued into this most-recent down period.”

Nick Gallo with yesterday’s Thunder practice report: “One important part of the consistency for the Thunder is to continue staying true to the fundamentals that got the players to NBA and the highest levels of competition to begin with. Both of the Thunder’s most potent wing scorers, Paul George and Carmelo Anthony, have been going through a cold streak shooting the ball as of late. They’re getting the same looks that they’ve gotten throughout the course of the season, but the ball just isn’t dropping right now. For Donovan, it’s always important to be identifying more opportunities to create high percentage looks for his players, but he also trusts that perennial All-Stars will find their groove once again. “They know their shot, their game and who they are better than anybody else,” Donovan noted. “And certainly you try to create an open forum and dialogue if there’s something I can do to help them.”

Timothy Rapp (B/R) with Paul George’s pre-Thunder thoughts on Steven Adams: “Going against him, I thought he was some cocky, arrogant dude, who always just wanted to start trouble,” he said, per Royce Young of ESPN.com. “I just thought he was one of those bigs, every opportunity he wants problems. And when I got here, it was the truth.” George made it clear he was mostly joking, however. “No, he’s actually a great dude; he’s actually a great teammate,” he said. “He’s actually pretty funny. He does want those problems down there, that is actually true, but I think that comes from him being a physical teammate. That comes with altercations.”

VIDEO – Neil Paine (FiveThirtyEight) discusses Carmelo Anthony’s struggles:

Erik Horne on Thunder assistant Maurice Cheeks waiting for his Hall of Fame call: “No matter the result when the Hall of Fame announces its 2018 class at the NCAA Final Four on Saturday, it won’t be because of any politicking from Cheeks. The 61-year-old is one of 13 finalists for the Hall, including Steve Nash and Jason Kidd. That tandem may have made it difficult for the committee to squeeze in a third point guard when, not to mention Cheeks is up against first-time finalists Ray Allen and Grant Hill, as well as previous finalist Chris Webber, among others. Cheeks doesn’t have the abundance of raw numbers Kidd or Nash compiled, but he’s plenty accomplished.”

Paolo Ugetti (Ringer) on wanting seven games of Blazers/Thunder: “On Sunday night in the Blazers’ 108-105 win over the Thunder, every Portland starter who took a 3 made one. As a team, the Blazers shot less than 30 percent from 3, yet they still made more long-range shots (nine) than the Thunder (eight). Carmelo Anthony took five 3s and made none. Paul George took seven and made none. Zip. Zero. Nada. OKC was down 18 at one point and still took this game to the wire. It was yet another testament to the team’s still-flammable, yet often disappointing, offense (see: the Toronto game). The Thunder’s ability to flip the switch is both a luxury and an indictment. But that the Blazers won on such a poor shooting night is yet another reason to believe in their strong backcourt—yes, Shabazz Napier included. And their inside-out game when Jusuf Nurkic plays up to tough competition is the type of complement that gives credence to their contender status.”

Nick Gallo recaps Russell Westbrook’s annual bowling event that took place last night in OKC: “As his Thunder teammates and the donors who filled the building from far and wide continued to mingle, Russell Westbrook surveyed the scene. His family was there, and he spent time with them. He cracked jokes with his teammates, and he shook hands and took photos with everyone in attendance. In the back of his mind though, he couldn’t help but think about getting the bowling pins set up, and starting up the action at his 8th Annual Why Not? Bowl. The ever-competitive Westbrook was eager to knock the rust off his bowling game, and see what kind of skills his teammates had too. “My teammates showed some love,” Westbrook said with a smile rising on his face. “It’s always good to get all the guys out of their homes. They get a chance to bring their families as well and enjoy themselves.”

Around the League: KD returns to action tomorrow night…. LaMarcus Aldridge went down with a knee injury last night…. Kevin Love was knocked out of last night’s game with a loose tooth/concussion-like symptoms…. LiAngelo Ball will enter the 2018 NBA draft…. The Bucks have a 2016-17 Thunder problem…. Damian Lillard will sit tonight after the birth of his first child…. Dennis Schroder could be facing felony charges…. Why Utah could have the NBA’s most feared defense.