Kiwi Steve in the NBA #12: The Rotorua Special On A Sprained Ankle

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BOX SCORES

vs MILWAUKEE BUCKS (W 118-112):

31 MINS | 14 PTS (7/10 FG, 0/2 FT) | 8 REB (4 REB) | 2 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 1 PF

at ORLANDO MAGIC (W 126-117):

DNP – Right Ankle Strain


NEXT WEEK

at MIAMI HEAT, Saturday at 2pm (NZT)

at BOSTON CELTICS, Monday at 8am (NZT)

vs ORLANDO MAGIC, Wednesday at 2.00pm (NZT)


vs MILWAUKEE BUCKS (W 118-112)

They laughed when he made a mess of his eurostep. He laughed too, to be fair. Everybody laughed. It was very funny, dude stepped all over the place like he was on the dancefloor not the hardwood. But James Harden misses shots all the time, doesn’t mean he’s not a great shooter, and Steven Adams has that eurostep down pat when the rhythm’s right. Or rather, the Rotorua Special, the Aotearoa Shuffle, the Shimmy-Shimmy-Shaka. Old mate knows the moves.

Please. Your word, son…

Wise words indeed.

Steve-o knows his way around an offensive rebound a little more famously and it was via that old tried and true method that he got the Thunder on the board against Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks after starting off in an 8-0 hole. Adams had turned one over already but he tipped in a missed triple from Russ (yeah, I know…) and the Thunder were on the way. Next thing they get a stop and Paul George drills a three.

Paul George was a busy hombre in this one. His All Star inclusion was a big deal, edging out Anthony Davis (now AD wants a trade, damn P) for that fifth spot and with George’s defensive excellence he’s putting together a real outside MVP case. I mean, James Harden is going to win it, he’s gone to a whole new level this month, but Paul George has deservedly got himself in the conversation and this was a real statement opportunity against a fellow candidate in Giannis The Greek Freak Antetokounmpo.

Hey remember how the Thunder’s defence fell to pieces a couple weeks ago? Well those problems are gone now and Giannis felt the full force. Blocked by Terrance Ferguson. Blocked by Nerlens Noel. Blocked again by Nerlens Noel. Blocked by Jerami Grant. Blocked again by Jerami Grant. Blocked a third time by Jerami Grant. Blocked by Russell Westbrook. Poor bugger didn’t even make a field goal in the first half, just a shame that Adams didn’t get in on the block party… although he had his hands full with Brook Lopez draining threes to keep the Bucks in the contest.

Steven Adams on guarding Brook Lopez, pre-game: “It's the same responsibility, regardless. The guards do it all the time. They have a really hot shooter, doesn't mean they hug up on them. Because everything goes downhill from there. Because that's part of our team defense, is everyone has to load up, regardless of if he's a shooter and we'll just deal with it on the backside of it. That all just comes down to the reads,” Adams said, “just the body language that they're presenting on the drives. If it's a really threatening drive, is he going for the layup, or is he just kind of probing. It's a tough read.”

Lopez went 4/4 from deep in the first quarter, responsible for almost half of the Bucks points in the frame. But he’d only end up scoring 19 in the game. The Bucks are another of the very top defences in the league and they had the NBA’s best record coming into this one however Paul George was doing what he does and the Thunder’s defence was absolutely suffocating, keeping Milwaukee to just 17 points in the second quarter and 42 points in the first half. The only real negative of it all was Adams appearing to rough up his always fragile ankles again, heading down to the locker room in the first quarter… although he returned as usual in the second.

Nerlens Noel: “Coach trusted me with extended minutes when Steve was down. I wanted to do my best job of changing the game. Regardless of what side of the ball it's on, I just want to do what I do as a player.”

No kidding, Nerlens. You did just that. 6 points, 6 rebounds and 2 blocks in 17 minutes of action. His lesser size means a little more mobility than Steve (who to be fair moves really well for his size) and on a dodgy ankle, that wasn’t such a bad compromise for Steve.

Worth a mention that the Rotorua Special came after this knock, in the third quarter. So he wasn’t too bad off (although wait ‘til you get to the next game). Nonetheless, he did seem to be more cautious on his feet in the fourth quarter especially, when he looked almost hesitant to check back in. By then Giannis had remembered how to score and was on his way to 27 points and 18 rebounds. And from an 82-66 lead, the Thunder did leave the door open. Khris Middleton hit a couple threes and closed the gap. OKC found some breathing room again and even with 3:26 remaining they were up by eleven points… but seven straight for the Bucks made it interesting.

So Adams polished one off from a Paul George feed before PG and Eric Bledsoe traded buckets until George nicked one off him in the final minute and the Thunder polished it off at the free throw line for their fifth win in a row. Paul George had 36 while hitting 8/12 from 3pt range. Westbrook shot a rubbish 5/20 but was otherwise great with 13p/13r/11a. Another solid one for Ferguson as well with 15 points. Ditto for Jerami Grant with 16 points and 5 blocks.

Only 14 points and 8 rebounds for Steven Adams though, not his most effective game although he did only play 31 minutes, a few below his average of 34 mins (which is more like 36 mins in close games, since that average is dragged down when he doesn’t have to play in the fourth of blowouts). The good thing for him was that with Noel and Grant doing well he didn’t have to over-exert himself on a day when he was playing through pain… or, you know, more pain than usual. He had a quiet fourth quarter but he was great in the third, shooting 5/7 for 10 points in the frame as OKC seemed to be pulling away.


at ORLANDO MAGIC (W 126-117)

Not ideal… but you could tell he was hobbled last game even after he came back into the game so no shocker. Funaki went through his pre-game shoot-around as normal however that right ankle must not have been feeling it. He was officially ruled out about half an hour before the game tipped off, with some unfortunate company as Terrance Ferguson’s back spasms flared up in warm-ups and the Thunder were down two starters on the road – Nerlens Noel and Hamidou Diallo replaced them.

NewsOK: “Adams was questionable for Tuesday's game after tweaking his right ankle with less than a minute remaining in the first quarter of the Thunder's 118-112 win against Milwaukee on Sunday. Adams slipped underneath the Thunder basket and had to exit the game, but returned with 2:43 left before halftime to finish with 14 points, eight rebounds and two assists in 30 minutes.”

The good news is that there’s three days until they play again on Saturday away to the Miami Heat, so plenty of time to recover. The bad news is that makes this particular week’s Kiwi Steve rather slim pickings with only 31 minutes of action to talk about. Was kinda sorta hoping for a 25-point masterclass here, some basketball brutality, and then swoosh there’s the clincher. But we make do with what he have in life, don’t we? Count the blessings not the other stuff.

So instead let’s talk about his endorsement deal with Oklahoman Beef Council. You remember the smashing steaks ad, that’s them.

Steven Adams: “I have fond memories of spending time working with my brother on his dairy farm. Because of this, I have a major respect for farming and ranching families, whether they are here in Oklahoma or my home country of New Zealand. Through this partnership I have the opportunity to help share their story while also featuring the nutritional role beef plays in my diet.”

That’s from the press release about the whole thing. You’ll be pleased to know that he is getting paid for the partnership plus part of the deal is that there’s also going to be this “Steven’s Steak of the Month Club” thing going on… where every member of the club is delivered their favourite beef steaks complimentary of the OBC each month during the NBA season. The only catch is that you have to be playing for the Oklahoma City Thunder at the time and you also have to be Steven Adams. Yeah, he’s the only member of the club. Exclusive, aye?

Heather Buckmaster, OBC: “We are thrilled with this partnership. Oklahoma pro basketball fans know Steven not only has an affinity for the agriculture community, but he also wanted to be a farmer growing up. Additionally, beef is one of his favorite foods, which will allow this partnership to share how beef fires his play and inspires strength through the essential nutrients it provides such as protein, zinc, iron and B-complex vitamins. We also look forward to sharing more Adams vignettes throughout the year.”

There you go then. As an ethical media institution, The Niche Cache is obliged to mention the environmental damage done by the mass meat industry, however one also need not go full vegan in order to help affect change – buying from principled farming sources goes along way. It’s the overkill that’s ruining things. More animals than the land can sustain. American capitalism screaming more more more, profits and money and blood. Assuming that the OBC is more than just a lobbyist and actually support the honest farmer doing honest work for enough rather than too much. Is this getting too political? Yeah sorry about that, moving on.

Without Kiwi Steve, OKC had an issue with rebounding. Funny how he doesn’t actually dominate the board stats personally but take him out and everyone else has trouble getting to those loose ones. And Adams single-handedly dominates the offensive end so seeing OKC get out-rebounded 53-43 overall and 18-6 at the offensive end was a bit of a concern. Shows what was missing. Nikola Vucevic had a bit of fun for the Magic. Aaron Gordon too.

There were also real defensive inconsistencies and that probably has a lot to do with Nerlens Noel playing with the starters in Adams’ absence and robbing the bench of its best defender. They weren’t bad, just inconsistent. Couple that with the second chance efforts they were allowing by not wrapping up those defensive boards and they had a bit of a challenge on their hands.

As is fast becoming the custom though, Paul George took care of that. PG scored 37 points while Russell Westbrook had a 23p/14r/14a triple double and when Terrence Ross hit a few shots down the stretch to close within five points, Dennis Schroder stepped up to score 18 of his 21 points in the fourth to lead the Thunder to victory. OKC had led by as many as 15 points and were down three at one stage early in the fourth. Got there in the end though. Six in a row.

Hopefully Steve and Fergo are back for the next game. Here’s some rando trying to sell you something with the footage of how Adams hurt himself…

Daily Thunder: “Miss you, Steve. Orlando took advantage of Big Kiwi’s absence, abusing the Thunder 53-43 on the glass. They grabbed 18 offensive rebounds, scored 18 second-chance points, and Nikola Vucevic posted a cool 27 points and 11 rebounds. Nerlens Noel had a stat line of 12 points, seven rebounds, and five blocks in his +12 evening. Regardless, it’s difficult to replicate the physicality Adams brings to the court. OKC missed that tonight.”


SLAM DUNKS

And finally, not really buying this one… but it’d be nice…

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