4 min read

Wednesday Bolts: 4.4.18

Nick Gallo recaps last night’s loss to the Warriors: “All three previous matchups between the Thunder and Golden State Warriors this season had been blowouts, two in Oklahoma City’s favor. Tonight, the two fan bases finally got a back-and-forth epic game that came down to the little things: missed free throws, defensive coverages and second chances. All three of those issues, along with a heaping of missed shots, eventually determined the final result, a 111-107 loss for the Thunder, who shot just 37.6 percent on the night including 9-of-38 (23.7 percent) from three-point range. Head Coach Billy Donovan’s club got high quality looks at the basket all night, they just wouldn’t drop.”

Royce Young on KD getting more help than Russ: “The box score says it came down to a duel between Westbrook and Durant, every NBA fan’s fever dream, but the deciding plays of the game featured what Durant’s teammates did — and what Westbrook’s didn’t. Westbrook played his part, trying to energize the Thunder, scoring 17 in the third quarter as he led OKC back from a 10-point halftime deficit. It was clear the Thunder needed an adrenaline jolt, and that’s something Westbrook specializes in. He thrives in messy and slightly chaotic environments, and when the signal goes up, he relishes answering it. But with Carmelo Anthony and Paul George struggling, shooting a combined 9-of-35, including 3-of-18 from 3, the Thunder eventually ran out of chances. It wasn’t that the offense stalled or the shots were bad — they just didn’t go in.”

Dieter Kurtenbach (Mercury News) on why the Warriors have no reason to fear the Thunder in the playoffs: “The Thunder still present serious matchup problems — on paper. They can play stout defense, Steven Adams has always been a problem for Golden State, Russell Westbrook’s style of play stresses the Warriors in ways they don’t like to be stressed, Paul George is the closest thing to a Kevin Durant stopper that exists on this planet, and when Carmelo Anthony is getting open looks, he can be lethal. But those are just the issues the Thunder could present. As we learned Tuesday, the reality is far less daunting. Down five players, including two of their top-five in Stephen Curry and Andre Iguodala, the Warriors showed that the Thunder’s challenges to Golden State remain theoretical — on paper — at best.”

Royce Young (B/R) on Paul George’s admitted shooting slump: “After shooting 5-of-19 against the Golden State Warriors in a 111-107 loss, Thunder forward Paul George said he has “got to figure it out” with regard to a shooting slump that has plagued him over the past month. “There’s something mechanical in my shot,” he said. “I’ve had struggles throughout the season and my career of shooting, but it’s all just been about not making shots. I don’t know what it is. It feels funny. Shooting the ball feels funny. So I’m going to work with the trainers and try and figure that out. But I don’t feel myself shooting the ball right now.”

Rob Goldberg (B/R) on Westbrook’s confidence in the face of OKC’s struggles: “We’re not worried about that,” the guard said in reference to making the playoffs. “We’re just going to take one game at a time. We’ll be here in the postseason ready to go.” About two weeks ago, the Thunder appeared to be not only ready to easily make the playoffs but also earn home-court advantage in the first round. Six wins in a row had them sitting at 43-29 and ahead of a crowded group in the middle of the Western Conference. But the team has five losses in its last seven games, all by four points or fewer. Now Oklahoma City is in the sixth spot at 45-34, just 1.5 games clear of the ninth-place Denver Nuggets after Tuesday’s games. There are only three games left in the season, but the next two are on the road against squads that have already clinched playoff spots (Houston and Miami).”

Brett Dawson reviews the Western Conference playoff picture: “Yes, it’s the Warriors. But given the absence of Stephen Curry and a depleted bench, Golden State was ripe for the picking on Tuesday. OKC couldn’t do it. The Thunder controls its destiny for only one playoff spot. Win a pair of games and it’s guaranteed the 8 seed regardless. Lose two of the final three and things get tricky.”

Gordon Hayward on how Paul George has helped his recovery process: “One person who’s been really great about keeping up with me is Paul George, and that’s meant a lot. He’s obviously got a lot going on with what he’s doing, just in his own season. So for him to still take the time to hit me up and check in on me to see how I’m doing, that’s been really cool.  His message is pretty simple, but it comes from an important place. He tells me to continue to work every day and not get frustrated by setbacks, because there are going to be setbacks. There are going to be days where you feel really good, and there are going to be days where it is a lot more sore than normal. There are days where you feel like you take two or three steps backward, but he’s told me not to get frustrated by that. In time, I’ll be 100 percent and healthy. Just continue to work. That’s kind of been the general message.”

Around the League: KD doesn’t think the Warriors are invincible…. The 76ers have won 11 in a row…. Scott Brooks says James Harden is the MVP…. Jimmy Butler teased his upcoming return from injury…. Should teams try a zone defense against elite opponents?…. How Adam Silver made his mark in the rising world of esports.