Kiwi Steve in the NBA #11: The Mythical Power of the Sauna

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BOX SCORES

at ATLANTA HAWKS (L 142-126):

38 MINS | 16 PTS (7/7 FG, 2/5 FT) | 7 REB (2 OFF) | 2 STL | 3 TO | 3 PF

vs LOS ANGELES LAKERS (L 138-128 OT):

41 MINS | 17 PTS (6/9 FG, 5/6 FT) | 15 REB (7 OFF) | 1 AST | 4 STL | 2 TO | 3 PF

at PHILADELPHIA 76ERS (W 117-115):

36 MINS | 16 PTS (8/13 FG) | 9 REB (7 OFF) | 3 AST | 1 STL | 2 BLK | 2 TO | 2 PF

at NEW YORK KNICKS (W 127-109):

30 MIN | 10 PTS (5/8 FG) | 7 REB (3 OFF) | 3 AST | 2 TO | 3 PF

vs PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS (W 123-114):

36 MINS | 14 PTS (7/12 FG) | 8 REB (4 OFF) | 3 AST | 2 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 2 PF

vs NEW ORLEANS PELICANS (W 122-116):

36 MINS | 20 PTS (9/12 FG, 2/2 FT) | 13 REB (7 OFF) | 2 AST | 1 STL | 4 TO | 2 PF


NEXT WEEK

vs MILWAUKEE BUCKS, Monday at 12pm (NZT)

at ORLANDO MAGIC, Wednesday at 1pm (NZT)


at ATLANTA HAWKS (L 142-126)

Some games are just duds. Even away from home, a team like the Atlanta Hawks are a team that the Thunder expect to beat and scoring 126 points ought to do it every day of the week. But games tend not to be won when you allow the other team to shoot 62% from the field and put 45 on you in the final quarter. And also 45 points in the second quarter too. Some horrific perimeter defence crept into the OKC lads and then John Collins did his thing too with 26 points on 12/14 shooting – the bloke that Kiwi Steve was marking most of the way. Trae Young and Alex Len also each scored 24 for ATL.

NewsOK: “Then something dark and sinister took hold in Donovan’s soul, and he committed the unpardonable sin. He gave Steven Adams and Paul George a rest. In truth, they are not ironmen. They indeed need to take a breather every now and then. But these days, when George and/or Adams sits, it’s anarchy on the court. Atlanta promptly scored 17 points on its first nine possessions of the second quarter, and a 29-25 Thunder lead became a 42-35 deficit. It took the Hawks all of 4:06 to score those 17 points.”

Like, again, the Thunder’s offence hummed along nicely. Only 12 turnovers all game, Westbrook shot close to 50% and had 11 assists to go along with his 31 points. Paul George made five triples on the way to 24 points plus the both of them had five steals each (and Adams had another three). But they got nothing from their bench aside from Dennis Schroder, up against his old team, and he can’t defend anyway. Coming so soon after allowing the Spurs to hit triple after triple on the way to way too many points, that’s a tad concerning for a side that’s built on suffocating defence. Steven Adams was not immune.

Daily Thunder: “In addition to their barrage of three-pointers, the Hawks made easy work of OKC down low. The Hawks outscored the Thunder 68-54 in the paint and out-rebounded OKC 44-40. Steven Adams posted 16 points and seven rebounds but was outplayed by Alex Len for most of the evening. You read that correctly.”

That’s just the way it goes sometimes so no reason to dwell on one stinker of a performance. Instead let’s have a peek at these All Start voting results which have just been announced…

Obviously we already knew that Steven was not going to crack the starters. That’d be insane for a first time All Star, he’d have to be crushing the competition and we know he’s only on the fringes of the conversation to begin with. It’s possible that the coaches come to his aid and sneak him on in there but no dramas if not – there are some outrageously good candidates and, what, he’s supposed to get in there ahead of Nikola Jokic, Karl-Anthony Towns or Rudy Gobert? Can’t argue with the competition.

Adams did hold off Jokic in the fan voting though. 1,779,073 votes was good for sixth on the standings, trailing LeBron James, Luka Doncic, Kevin Durant, Paul George and Anthony Davis. Ahead of Nikola Jokic, Kyle Kuzma, Draymond Green and DeMarcus Cousins (people vote for Lakers and Warriors regardless of if they’re playing or not). That’s pretty bloody amazing, to be honest. Shot, Aotearoa. Also shot Oklahoma City because they did most of the voting, it seems.

As for the rest of it, Funaki held up quite well. Not as well as with the fans but he still got heaps of respect from players. None from the media but that’s because they’re always more refined and consistent and the five same dudes got basically all the media love.

PLAYER VOTING RESULTS (WEST FC)

  1. LeBron James (174)

  2. Kevin Durant (168)

  3. Anthony Davis (136)

  4. Paul George (76)

  5. Nikola Jokic (75)

  6. LaMarcus Aldridge (49)

  7. Steven Adams (48)

  8. Luka Doncic (43)

  9. Clint Capela (20)

  10. Tobias Harris (16)

MEDIA VOTING RESULTS (WEST FC)

  1. LeBron James (78)

  2. Kevin Durant (77)

  3. Anthony Davis (66)

  4. Paul George (43)

  5. Nikola Jokic (33)

  6. Luka Doncic (2)

  7. Rudy Gobert (1)

  8. Everybody Else (0)

All weighted out, that puts Steven Adams seventh amongst Western Frontcourt players. LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Paul George are the starters and probably 3-4 more will get in as reserves. Anthony Davis will be one of those and there is no debate. All things being right in the world Nikola Jokic will join him. This leaves Steven Adams in the challenge for the last frontcourt specialist gig against the likes of Gobert, Towns, Doncic, Aldridge, Green, Capela, Harris and a few others. That or one of the final two wildcard spots which are open to any position and there will 100% be a few point guards scrapping away there… possibly even his buddy Russell Westbrook. Doesn’t look all that likely, to be honest. So peep those voting numbers above and sit back with pride at how well he’s already done and don’t worry about what the future might hold.


vs LOS ANGELES LAKERS (L 138-128 OT)

Get there, chieftain! Must be that the Lakers were in town (watch that bad boy with the sound on, btw, the world actually did tremble). The Los Angeles Lakers were without LeBron James, still injured, while OKC had welcomed back Alex Abrines and Nerlens Noel to practice but only Noel was ready to go as a salve to that bench unit. Noel, with the rim protection he offers when Adams is catching a breath, was looking a whole lot more crucial while he wasn’t playing. OKC’s defence had been horrific and it wasn’t just that Hawks game.

Lakers.com Game Preview: “The Thunder boast the NBA’s highest-rated defense, but in their last five games they have surrendered a league-high 128.6 points, which has unsurprisingly resulted in four losses. But Oklahoma City has no shortage of firepower, led by top-10 scorer Paul George — who dropped 37 points on the Lakers two weeks ago and has scored 30-plus in 11 of his last 20 games. Meanwhile, Russell Westbrook is on pace to average a triple-double for the third straight season, and Steven Adams is a monster on the offensive glass. Toss in a potential return to defensive form and OKC is one of the most formidable opponents in the NBA.”

Count that sucker and away we go. OKC came out hot in the first quarter, leading by as many as 17 points with Paul George and fresh blood Terrance Ferguson, the former Adelaide 36er on a bit of a breakout run of form at the moment, knocking them down. Let us not forget Steven Adams either, scoring eight of the first 13 points for the Thunder and even polishing off a pair of free throws to get underway.

Problem was that what OKC did in the first, the Lakers did and then some in the second. Having closed on a 10-2 run in the first they then put the hammer on ‘em, outscoring the Thunder 40-24 in the 2Q to lead by four at half-time. Once again it was the Thunder bench that let it get away, a 20-5 run there against them bridging the end of the first to start of the second.

Fast forward down the stretch and this game swung a few different ways before Russell Westbrook took over the reins trying to win it in the fourth. Paul George didn’t even get a shot attempt up in the entire frame – Steven Adams did but only the two (making one and getting fouled on the other, converting both FTs for a surprisingly excellent 5/6 night from the charity stripe). That bucket was an absolute classic too, a pump fake sending Lonzo flying on his way to the hoop. Churrrrrrr.

Good thing Steve did that because Westbrook was 1/9 in the fourth and the Lakers were edging ever so slightly in front. Josh Hart made a couple FTs with 36 seconds left for a three point lead. Westbrook missed a layup but then Jerami Grant blocked Kyle Kuzma with six secs on the clock – that fella’s turning into quite the defender, gonna claim some Kiwi Steve influence there – and the shot clock expired. One last chance… Lonzo Ball fouls Westbrook. And Russ, who’s been missing FTs all bloody season, steps up to make all three and take us to overtime.

Incredible and frantic stuff… unfortunately OKC only scored six points in overtime and lost by ten. Chuck that one on the pile of trash recent defence with 138 points against, although it was offence that doomed them in OT. Adams didn’t get a shot up and Russ & PG combined for 0/6 as the Thunder went 15% from the field in the bonus five mins. Kyle Kuzma won’t rate those All Star voting results after scoring 32 points here. And Ivica Zubac’s 26 showed Nerlens Noel looking a bit rusty, though he got some cash on Steve as well to be fair, probably Zubac’s best game in the NBA. OKC’s best were PG with 27 points and Russ with 26. Ferguson also added 21 and with 17p/15r it was one of Adams’ better games lately. Four more steals too (he smashes steaks but he smashes steals too).

Speaking of the man you’re here to celebrate… add Michael Beasley to The List.

Daily Thunder: “The 3-point barrage the Thunder are currently facing is somewhat of an anomaly (the Lakers shoot 33.8 percent from deep on the season, went 19-of-40 last night… San Antonio makes 9.8 threes a game and hit OKC with 16 last week), so make what you will of that. However, getting destroyed in the pick-n-roll is becoming a monster issue, as Steven Adams is being routinely pulled out of position and giving up far too many easy looks at the cup. For an example of how this opens things up for opposing teams, look no further than Alex Len’s 24 points on Tuesday and Ivica Zubac’s career-high 26 points last night. It’s difficult to beat anyone, even the bad teams, when the rim is being left unprotected entirely and someone is always open.

In order to start getting back to the level of defense the Thunder had as recently as two weeks ago, the communication in the pick-n-roll simply must be better. Adams is leaving his man (sometimes prematurely, other times out of necessity) to stop the bleeding elsewhere and it’s creating open layups and second-chance opportunities that make the game too easy for opponents. You can also pray for everyone to stop shooting like the Warriors every night. That would be helpful, too.”


at PHILADELPHIA 76ERS (W 117-115)

Any week is a good week when there’s an in depth Steven Adams feature out there on the digital market and this week had a real doozy as ESPN’s OKC Thunder scribe in residence Royce Young served up the goods.

Even from the opening lines you know you’re in for an experience…

“STEVEN ADAMS LOVES the sauna. Actually, Steven Adams loves the sow-nah, which is how he makes sure to pronounce it, overemphasizing his Kiwi accent. The sow-nah has some mythical power in Adams' mind, the ability to tweak body chemistry, release hormones and increase strength. It's performance-enhancing science, and Adams loves science.”

Best to traverse the entire thing yourself for the full experience… and now we resume our regularly scheduled broadcast…

Now, you may or may not realise this but when the Thunder play the 76ers it’s a big deal. First of all because it’s Kiwi Steve against Aussie Ben. Second of all because it’s Kiwi Steve against Joel ‘The Process’ Embiid, one of the absolute best centres in the game. Third of all because it’s Russell Westbrook against Joel Embiid and it just so happens that the two don’t like each other much.

After a whole lot of trash in their last week or so of performances, the Thunder brought the goods to Philadelphia. A 1-5 run of results had to be snapped and it was. Although they had to do it the hard way. From an 11-point lead with ten minutes to go the Thunder nearly blew it at the end only to bring it on home thanks to a familiar hero.

This game had all the drama. Oklahoma City were up as many as 16 points in the first quarter, Adams able to get a few of them to go before checking out much earlier than usual – no hiding it whatsoever, the Thunder have nobody else who can stick with Joel Embiid so Billy Donovan wasn’t going to leave Embiid out there for a single second that he could help without Adams being out there pretty much handcuffed to him. Granted, there’s only so far that can go and Embiid wasn’t buggering around here. Adams scored 12 points in the opening 14 minutes (and he sat for three of those) however the longer the game went on, the more Embiid came into it. Process Joe scored 21 points in the second half while Steve scored… four.

Etcetera… this wasn’t really about Steve vs Joel. It was Russ vs Joel, the two with all sorts of bad blood and that boiled over in the fourth when Russ took a heavy foul from Embiid on the fast break, bowling him down and leaving him wriggling in pain. It took the bros to restrain him once he bounced back up (from out of bounds where he’d landed)… no need for Steve to get involved this time though, he was just chilling with JJ Redick while the other lads handled it.

The rest of the game wasn’t bad either. Jimmy Butler hit a triple with a little over a minute remaining to make it 108-107 and Westbrook missed a triple in response (he missed a few, to be fair)… lucky for him that Steve grabbed the board and Fergo buried from three. Butler then stormed his way to the hoop for a three-point play but George made a couple free throws.

Then a silly one as Embiid shaped up to shoot from the top of the key and Westbrook charged into him and fouled the joker, Embiid popping all three to tie it. And then, erm, Butler nicked a steal off Schroder and with 6.9 seconds remaining the Thunder were losing. But that’s what Paul George is for, dropping an absolute bomb of a triple and getting fouled at the same time for the four-point play. Jimmy Butler then missed at the buzzer, with Ben Simmons copping some heat for turning down an open look on that final possession. Thunder win, finally the Thunder win. That’ll do.

You might wanna do some more research on the Russ vs Embiid thing because it did not end there. Some comments were made afterwards to media and it was hilarious. Russ with the curb-stomp comebacks, aye.

He also scored 21 points on 21 shots so not the best. Schroder also scored 21 off the bench and George got 31. Embiid had 31 of his own and Redick scored 22 with Simmons adding 20. Butler had some clutch plays at the end for his 18 points but only shot 5/18, starting real average. Credit for getting back when it mattered though and on another day he’d have been a match-winner.

Welcome to Loud City: “While Embiid got the best of Steven “Lumberjack” Adams statistically, it was a fun matchup to watch, as Adams was clearly juiced to go against the Cameroonian big man. This play, where as soon as he knew he had Embiid in front of him, resulted in a quick pivot and attack at the rim from 15 feet away.”

But wait! No sooner was that game over and the post-match dealt with and all that than the lads were on their way down the road for

Long day then. Fun day. Hope they got a sleep-in in the morning.


at NEW YORK KNICKS (W 127-109)

And then sometimes you get the simple ones, where a first quarter lead extends into the double digits and it never again gets any closer than that. Such was the case when the Thunder made the zip up to the Big Apple of NYC to play the Knickerbockers and laid down a proper old hiding. Been a little while since OKC had had one of these – double-digit wins were common earlier on but they hadn’t had one since the end of December when the choked the Mavs on a back to back (after losing the day before).

It really was that simple. Paul George came out and scored 13 points in the first quarter, looking super aggressive, and OKC popped out to a 34-16 lead after the first quarter and pretty much kept it consistent from there. Part of the thing with PG being so on to it is that Steven Adams didn’t get a shot up until 3:41 left in the first, very unusual, and even then it was a second-chance layup after a PG miss. He made up for that with six points in the second but minutes were all a little stretched with a big lead.

Almost a little surprising that Adams even played in the fourth, checking back in with an 11-point lead and eight and a half to play and then staying in for about five minutes without scoring but with his side stretching it out even further. No dramas. 10 points, 7 rebounds and 3 assists is a very quiet one for Steve but the W is what counts and he got a bit of extra rest which always helps.

Paul George ended with 31 points. Abel Nader surprised with a solid 16 points, all but one of them in a fiery fourth quarter. Westbrook had 17p/10r/9a in even fewer minutes than Adams. The Knicks were led by 23 from Tim Hardaway Jr… a co-star of Steve’s in the Budweiser HYDRATE commercial.

Speaking of old mates, you know what else a trip to NYC means these days…

Enes Kanter only played nineteen minutes off the bench scoring 11 points on 11 shots. Not really a day he’ll remember for the on-court stuff. But getting the band back together is always a laugh and a party.

By the way, if you haven’t been keeping up with Enes Kanter’s continuing battle against the Turkish State, who have issued an Interpol red notice for the extradition and arrest of Brother Enes for his comments about Turkish president Tayyip Erdogan then you really should. A quick google goes a long way, the bloke is a proper hero in the face of abusive power. Keep fighting the good fight, amigo.

A primer on the situation…


vs PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS (W 123-114)

Yeah righto then, back at it against another Western playoff contender and who wants to hear Kevin McHale and Isiah Thomas discuss Steven Adams (and Jusuf Nurkic) and his post game? Yeah, me too.

As we all know, Jusuf Nurkic is kind of like kryptonite for Adams, he’s a very solid player but he’s the one guy objectively worse than Adams who always seems to get the better of him head to head. Always. So of course here was another relatively quiet one for Steve, below his season averages, although at the same time he did what needed to be done. Even if Nurkic did scrap hard to keep Portland in it. Him and, you know, Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum.

About fourteen minutes into this 48 minute game the Blazers led it 30-28. They’d begun it looking cold, a five-footer from Stevo making it 11-4 to OKC after a little over three mins, but POR came back to tied it up at 25-all after one. Yet once the Thunder took the lead back with a Patty Patterson triple they never again trailed. Led the entire rest of the way, sometimes by double digits and sometimes only by one point but they led the entire rest of the way. Across the entire game they trailed for a combination of less than 30 seconds.

That shouldn’t be an unusual occurrence when Paul George is making buckets. He caught fire in the second with 20 points and Russ played the floor general perfectly, getting his man involved over and over again while being disciplined with his own shooting. McCollum made seven triples but apart from him the Blazers were shocking from deep while Oklahoma City hit at nearly 50%. The seventh of those triples got his team within three in the fourth but then PG made some free throws, got a crucial steal, and Russ dunked them into victory. Literally.

Typically Nurkic ended with 22 points and 15 rebounds while Adams only had 14 points and 8 rebounds. He’s always a right bastard against the Thunder but after losing three straight home games against Portland, this time OKC finally got them. 36 points for Paul George and a 29-point triple double for Russell Westbrook. Lillard scored 34 and McColllum got 31.

Daily Thunder: “Nurkic’s effort on both ends of the glass kept Portland in the game despite their shooting struggles. In total, Nurkic recorded 15 rebounds, seven of which were offensive. Nurkic’s jump shot was smooth as he didn’t hesitate on multiple looks outside of the paint, scoring 22 points on 9-of-17 shooting. Adams had his hands full tonight, but that didn’t stop him from chipping in with 14 points (7-of-12 FG), eight rebounds, three assists, two steals, and a block.”


vs NEW ORLEANS PELICANS (W 122-116)

Steven Adams’ eurostep is one of the underrated aspects of his game, few big men can even run that fast, let alone with the agility to glide through their strides like is needed for a good old fashioned eurostep. But it doesn’t always work…

Just remember that he’s pulled that trick off more than a couple times in the past. Also remember that he’s rather outstanding at the stuff he does well… as he put on full display in this game - against a Pellies side that was missing three key players in E’Twaun Moore, Nikola Mirotic and, worst of all, Anthony Davis. Each one of them has done annoyingly quality things against the Thunder this season so this very quickly emerged as a game where a W was a near-necessity.

Moore was only rested after dealing with some injuries earlier, while Davis has a sore finger and this was his third missed game with that particular ailment. Mirotic has a calf strain and will miss a week at least. Get the feeling there that the Pellies were prepared for the schedule loss then. Sure enough the Thunder started nicely, Steve was in a bit of everything. Eurosteps aside he opened the scoring at the free throw line and quickly got the measure of Jahlil Okafor who was starting at the five against him. Okafor is a talented offensive bloke so he got a few buckets but he’s notoriously rubbish on defence.

Following a tight enough first quarter, Adams came back in with OKC up 35-34 and they promptly pushed it out. Over the last five mins of the half the Thunder outscored it 21-8 and it was impressive, even against a weakened opposition. Adams had 18 points and 7 rebounds at the half, OKC leading it 65-53. They expanded that lead in the third and although the Pellies did make a run in the final frame they never got within five points.

Jrue Holiday topped for NOP with 22 points, along with 13 assists and 4 steals. He was excellent but it wasn’t enough. Every OKC starter got at least 14 points with the big three all in the twenties. Steve had 20p/13r. PG got 23p/11r/7a. Russ left with 23p/17r/16a. Yeah… that’ll just about win most games, and what do you know? That’s four wins in a row.

Thunderous Intentions: “No Anthony Davis meant that Steven Adams had free reign over the painted area tonight. The Big Kiwi did not disappoint, as he scored 20 points and snagged 13 rebounds. He controlled the paint all evening and was a brick wall as he is every night. How can you not love Steven Adams?”

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