at MIAMI HEAT (W 118-102):
27 MIN | 13 PTS (6/15 FG 1/1 FT) | 7 REB (5 OFF) | 2 AST | 3 STL | 3 TO | 3 PF
at BOSTON CELTICS (L 134-129):
36 MIN | 16 PTS (7/11 FG, 2/4 FT) | 9 REB (4 OFF) | 2 STL | 3 PF
vs ORLANDO MAGIC (W 132-122):
36 MIN | 14 PTS (7/12 FG) | 4 REB (3 OFF) | 1 AST | 2 STL | 1 TO | 1 PF
vs MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES, Friday at 2pm (NZT)
at HOUSTON ROCKETS, Sunday at 2,30pm (NZT)
vs PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS, Tuesday at 2pm (NZT)
at NEW ORLEANS PELICANS, Friday at 2pm (NZT)
at MIAMI HEAT (W 118-102)
There was good news before tip-off, with that old pesky ankle injury not about to stop Kiwi Steve from getting to work against the Miami Heat. Certainly didn’t look like it was holding him back much when he rose all the way up for a little bit of this on the first possession of the game…
Adams added another bucket soon after but wasn’t able convert on a tip-in and lost a turnover as the Thunder started slowly on offence. No worries, before long Paul George got a couple to drop and things looked healthier. He’d sit for his first rest with the lads up 25-16 and that lead would still be seven points at the end of 1Q. Not a whole lot going on there but the second quarter, mate, that was when the action began… and also sorta ended.
See, OKC dropped 41 in the frame, pushing out to a 19-point lead at half-time. Adams only played the last six mins and added another two turnovers and two more missed shots to his night, not having the best time against Hassan Whiteside (they’ve tussled before, of course). Just keeping it a hundred that this wasn’t his best game… not that he was needed beyond his elite screening abilities. Paul George was doing everything else. Him and Dennis Schroder, who absolutely bossed the second quarter with 24 points all in his own shooting 9/9. Russell Westbrook was happy to share the ball around on his way to yet another triple-double (fifth in a row) and the game was never again in doubt.
Kiwi Steve hung around long enough to get to 13 points and 7 rebounds as the game settled into more of a grind in the second half, though he only shot at a very uncharacteristic 40% on the night. Usually if Steve’s getting 15 shots up then he’s gonna be in the mid-20s for scoring. Still, with three steals and two assists we did get glimpses at more nuanced sides of his game.
Meanwhile Paul George made a franchise record 10 three pointers (from 16 attempts) on the way to 43 total points. Schroder ended with 28 pts (11/13 fg) off the bench. For Miami it was nothing much to brag about. Kelly Olynyk got 21 off the bench and Josh Richardson scored 18 points on 7/18 shooting. Dwyane Wade and Paul George swapped jerseys afterwards. Thunder win 118-102 for their seventh straight W.
Give us some wisdom, Steve-o…
at BOSTON CELTICS (L 134-129)
And then the winning streak came to a halt as the Boston Celtics reminded everyone that their crap start to the season was a long time ago and that even if Anthony Davis’ dad doesn’t want him playing there, they’ve still got a bloody good side already. Except for Gordon Hayward, which is a stink one. Dude’s still shook from that horrible injury last season.
Boston were still fifth in the East at tip off of this game (they’ve since risen to third equal) but but with eight wins form their previous nine games they’re looking like contenders for the Eastern Conference once again. And all their usual suspects were on show here, all wanting to get out of there as quick as possible to catch the Super Bowl afterwards probably (Boston fans all supporting New England, after all – for everyone else there was nothing much to see). That means Al Horford, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Morris, Terry Rozier, Marcus Smart… and this bloke…
Gordon Hayward shot 1/6 for 3 points. The entire rest of the team did not have a single player shooting worse than 50% and combined they shot 59.6% from the field – which rises to 62.4% if you take Hayward’s numbers out of there. That’s… unfortunate… for a team that’s built upon its defence and which has really looked sharp in that department again the last week or two following a bit of a blip before that. The Celtics can do this to anybody on their day but keeping them away from the basket would have been a decent start – they didn’t do it all at once either, scoring 31, 35, 33, and 35 points in the four quarters. Sustained precision and efficiency.
So it was a matter of how well the Thunder could stick with them and it doesn’t really help when Steven Adams’ first four touches around the rim led to two misses, a blocked shot and a foul which he made one of two at the line from. But he settled in after that to have one of his better offensive games for a while, shooting 7/8 the rest of the way for 16 points with 9 rebounds. Boston led most of the way but never by too much. Paul George wasn’t at his fluent best but he was getting to the line and keeping it all ticking over.
An enthralling Adams dunk made it 41-41 and then Russ gave OKC a slight lead at the free throw line. Later on an Adams alley-oop from Schroder made it 51-50 to Boston. Hanging around… until a 15-8 run to end the first half put Boston in control. Again the Thunder closed it right back to take a narrow lead, again the Celtics pushed it right back out. And they looked solid for the win in the fourth as PG13 only shot 1/6 in the quarter. Down by twelve with less than five minutes to play.
The final comeback got as close as 130-129 after Jerami Grant nailed a triple with 16 seconds left. Jayson Tatum was quickly fouled and though he made the first, he missed the second. Westbrook got the board and stormed down court… but he lost control of it trying to go behind his back under pressure from the double team. That was basically the game right there, and Russ took the blame afterwards. He did get one last chance at the free throw line where he drilled one and then tried to deliberately miss the second for a triple to tie it… but he missed the rim altogether which is a violation. Marcus Smart made two more FTs to end it. Pity it was Russ at the end there because you know who’s a specialist in missing free throws, deliberately and otherwise…
To be fair, Westbrook and Grant were the two that made the comeback possible. Westbrook had yet another triple double with 22p/12r/16a for his sixth straight. Paul George ended with 37 points. Boston had eight scorers with 10+ led by Kyrie Irving’s sumptuous 30 points and 11 assists. Marcus Morris was a real pest with 19 points including 4/7 from deep too.
NewsOK/Erik Horne: “Not the best game for Steven Adams or his help. Al Horford is a tough matchup, but Adams was caught guarding no one numerous times. And when he was on his assignment, there was often no rotational help from the weakside to account for the cutter or a shooter popping out to 3.”
vs ORLANDO MAGIC (W 132-122)
Only one way to get it rolling…
Honestly though, this was another game where Steven Adams was only really a secondary contributor. Aaron Gordon led the Magic in the first half, disappearing after that, while Terrence Ross also made a bunch of shots and 22-win Orlando were up 69-62 at the half in Oklahoma. Then came the third quarter.
Forget whatever came before it, this was where the game was decided. Twelve minutes in which the Thunder brought their best at both ends. Not initially, as Nikola Vucevic made a few shots and the Magic pushed it out to a 12-point lead… and then Adams threw one down assisted from Russ and the rest of the way the Thunder bossed them 31-15. Westbrook has been on an utter tear with the assists lately, getting all the lads involved. He and Paul George have been working telepathically.
NewsOK: “Steven Adams came barreling at Aaron Gordon, a sight that would scare man or beast, and on this Tuesday night, it at least caused a most unlikely occurrence. Gordon missed a shot. The Magic couldn’t seem to miss all night – joining the Celtics from last Sunday in denting the Thunder defense with six straight quarters of better than 50 percent shooting – until finally OKC found some defensive intensity.
And when Gordon launched a 3-point shot from the left wing late in the third quarter, here came Adams’ 265 pounds and flying hair. Adams momentum carried him well toward the opposite basket, which meant Russell Westbrook was more than happy to rebound and hit Adams with a pass for a breakaway dunk. On the next possession, Orlando big man Nikola Vucevic got past Adams and had a clear path to the basket, but Jerami Grant met him there and blocked the shot. The Thunder was off and running again.”
There’s still a concern about how exactly the Thunder are letting a mediocre offence like Orlando’s look so effective for so much of the game. However the offence is at least humming along better with the defence on a dip. Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot was traded to the Chicago Bulls for cash considerations recently so don’t be stunned if the Thunder are active towards the trade deadline/buyout market for another wing defender… Wes Matthews would be an interesting option, for example. Yeah but credit to Steve for helping affect the turnaround.
Russ got his triple-double. PG passed 35 points once again. Both those things have happened in five straight (eight straight for Russ’ TDs). OKC had a few issues with the fouls in the last quarter but extended the lead all the same with more quality offence. Schroder and George took care of business. Won it by ten in the end.
Terrence Ross scored 26 for Orlando and Evan Fournier got another 25. 39 points for George (despite only shooting 9/26 – he made fifteen of his sixteen free throws), 20 off the bench for Schroder. 16p/15r/16a for Russ. 14 & 4 for Steve… not sure where all the rebounds went but I guess he was happy to let Russ and Jerami have ‘em all. Big difference in rebounds from when they played last week, having a healthy and available Steven Adams proves that. Only four boards yet the team was so much better overall.
Daily Thunder: “OKC flipped the script of last week’s game against the Magic, winning 49-40 on the glass and 58-38 in paint scoring. Nikola Vucevic was much less of a problem with Steven Adams in the lineup, as Vuc finished up with 17 points and nine rebounds. (He had 27 & 12 last Tuesday)”
NBA.com: “The burst featured some wonderful playmaking by Russell Westbrook, with one of the defining moments coming in a spur of the moment outlet pass from the All-Star point guard to Steven Adams. The center was streaking up the sideline on a leak out, and Westbrook fired up ahead, in an inversion of the typical center to guard pitch ahead. It was a bang-bang play, but the 7-footer snagged the ball just before an Orlando player was able to tip it then barreled to the rim for a fast break slam. Plant an NBA fan from any other decade than this in the stands for that play and they would think they were watching a different sport.”
Enes Kanter speaking about the day he was traded from OKC to NYK: “I was actually doing a basketball camp in Oklahoma City for orphans, and then my manager’s assistant brought me the phone. I was like, “I’m in the middle of the court. I’m in the middle of the basketball clinic. I cannot do it. I’ll take it later.” He said, “No, no, take it. It’s important.” OK, I took it. And my manager said, “Don’t look too excited, but you just got traded to the Knicks.” I’m like, “Oh, my God.” And then at the end of the camp, we all came to the middle, and we were going to say, “1, 2, 3 Thunder!” And I said, “OK, Knicks on 3,” and all the kids were booing and stuff. It was fun… I remember that night. I came home, packed my stuff, and then [Russell Westbrook and Steven Adams] wanted to go to dinner. I’m like, “Man, should I go to dinner? Or should I pack?” I went to dinner.”
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