vs SAN ANTONIO SPURS (W 102-92):
29 MINS | 11 PTS (5/8 FG, 1/5 FT) | 6 REB | 1 STL | 1 TO | 2 PF
vs UTAH JAZZ (W 112-104):
32 MINS | 11 PTS (5/8 FG, 1/2 FT) | 9 REB | 2 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 2 PF
at BROOKLYN NETS (W 122-104):
29 MINS | 11 PTS (4/5 FG, 3/4 FT) | 5 REB | 1 AST | 2 STL | 2 TO | 5 PF
at TORONTO RAPTORS, Friday 12.00pm (NZT)
vs SACRAMENTO KINGS, Sunday 8.00am (NZT)
vs GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS, Tuesday 1.00pm (NZT)
vs PHILADELPHIA 76ERS, Thursday 1.00pm (NZT)
vs SAN ANTONIO SPURS (W 102-92)
Love a bit of Steve & Russ, love a bit of NBA on TNT, love a bit of Toy Story too… but what the hell was that!?
Anyway, let’s get down to business here. The theme of last week was Adams’ form slump. There were two shocking games against Portland and over the course of four outings we saw games where he was offensively vacant, games where he got himself in foul trouble and games where even his premier defence was missing. Maybe it’s an intensity thing, maybe a matchup thing (Jusuf Nurkic definitely caused a few issues). Maybe it’s communication with a couple new teammates to ease into the fold. Adams addressed the struggles himself to the media:
By the way, getting dominated twice in a week by Nurkic wasn’t flash but since getting traded to the Blazers, Nurkic has done that to everyone (except the Pelicans). 16 points, nine boards, four assists and two blocks in his short time there, those are the averages. Who knew? And Portland got a first round pick in that deal!
Sports Illustrated: “If you think that preposterous Sixers statline (28p/20r/8a/6b/2s) comes with an asterisk— [Nurkic] was working against Richaun Holmes and Jahlil Okafor all night—it should be noted that he did similar things to Steven Adams and the Thunder in a win last week: 18 points, 12 rebounds, six assists, five blocks, and two steals.”
So here’s something that Steven Adams did against the Spurs:
That’s nice. Adams needed to start asserting himself on offence again and here against a team who his career really took off against in the last playoffs, he did a bit of that. He took four shots in the first three minutes, making his first too including one which drew a foul (though he missed the free throw). He got a little sloppy after that but 7 points in the first quarter was solid.
Daily Thunder: “The Thunder started off this game with a lot of energy on both sides of the ball. They went to Steven Adams early, looking to exploit the matchup with the Spurs’ Dewayne Dedmon. Adams has, as I’m sure you’ve seen or at least heard by now, been slumping as of late. The Thunder big man has not been getting many touches, has been struggling on the defensive end, and overall, has just looked lethargic on the court. However, tonight he was aggressive early, particularly on the offensive end, getting up five shots (which ties the number of shots he took in the last two Portland games combined) and making three of them.”
Pau Gasol hit a three near the end of the first to close the gap to 29-28 at the end of that quarter after OKC had led for a good portion of it. They still led, but you know. David Lee tied things up with a free throw to kick of the 2Q scoring after each team had missed a shot or two, except Lee buggered up his second attempts that woulda meant going in front. Victor Oladipo then hit from 18 feet for 31-29 and the reason that’s notable is that with 10:37 left in the second quarter the Thunder established the decisive lead of the game.
Adams watched that lead spread from the bench and got up off his seat with a double-digit advantage. A couple baskets before the end of the half and Adams had 11 points for the night. Problem was he wouldn’t score again. Not that his team needed it, though shanking two free throws is never a good thing. 1/5 he was for the night. His struggles there continue, apparently.
Time for a little niggle now. Danny Green and Steven Adams, double technical fouls. Yeeow.
Green was probably pissed coz he didn’t score at all in the first half and played 17 and a half minutes before he finally got a shot off. There’s not a lot in it, Adams checks him hard as the shot goes up and Green got feisty on the back of that. Steve’s elbow was kinda high which probably had something to do with it (he’s a fair bit taller than Greenie).
Also in the third quarter Kawhi Leonard, who had 19 points, copped a knock on the noggin from Oladipo and would leave the game. Gregg Popovich said he didn’t think Kawhi’s absence made a difference to the result, which doesn’t mean the Thunder weren’t glad to see the back of the Spurs’ MVP candidate. By the way San Antonio were also resting Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Kyle Anderson having won nine games on the trot. That streak ended at the hands of Russell Westbrook’s 23p/13a/13r – count it as triple double #31 for the season.
Since Kanter came back to health, Billy Donovan has understandably been more ready to take away a few minutes from Steven Adams in order to ride that Kanter Train with his offence. Similar again here, as Adams played his best game in a week but hardly his best game of the season and Kanter played quite well for his 14 points in 24 minutes. Dougie McBuckets added 11 off the bench too.
Also of note was 20 points for Oladipo, while Taj Gibson with this game officially became a starter for the Thunder – that new combination has probably had a lot to do with Steven Adams going up and down lately. On the other side Pau Gasol scored 18 but 16 came in the first half and LaMarcus Aldridge scored 18 on 8/14 shooting.
NewsOK: “Coach Billy Donovan opted to start Taj Gibson, acquired last month in a trade with the Bulls, in Sabonis’ place. The move had seemed inevitable, and Donovan pulled the trigger before Thursday’s game at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Donovan did it, he said, in large part to pair Gibson with starting center Steven Adams in the starting frontcourt and Sabonis with Enes Kanter in the second unit.”
Highlight of the night though? This dunk from Domantas Sabonis. Comes free with an outstanding reaction (or lack thereof) from Kiwi Steve. Young Dom taking that drop out of the starting five in his stride apparently.
Thunder Digest: “Steven Adams has awoken - It was no coincidence that in the midst of this four game losing streak, Steven Adams had been playing pretty poorly on both ends. But tonight, that was not the case. He got going with a few easy buckets in the first quarter, and was insanely physical all night. He made it tough on LaMarcus Aldridge all night, while keeping many offensive possessions alive. Steven Adams is as important as anyone on this Thunder roster for this team to win on a consistent basis.”
vs UTAH JAZZ (W 112-104)
The losing run ended with that superb win over the (admittedly depleted) Spurs and they went and added another quality win straight after that as the Jazz came to town. Don’t sleep on the Jazz, they’re shooting for that fourth seed in the West on the back of Rudy Gobert’s suffocating defence and Gordon Hayward’s playmaking. OKC, and Stevie especially, caught a break here though: No Rudy Gobert.
Derrick Favors is a huge presence for the Jazz as well. That was a break for OKC though they didn’t look like they were gonna make use of it at first. Adams got them on the board with a two-footer and added another after Rodney Hood had countered. It was a sloppy game. The Jazz were doubling down on the grind without their best defender and Enes Kanter was in halfway through the opening frame. That was a good call. The Stache Bro finished a couple buckets, blocked Trey Lyles from eight feet and was a genuine pest to get his team in control of this contest.
OKC were up as many as seven points in the first, as many as six early in the second but Boris Diaw pulled it back to 35-34. Then Dipo made a triple and Adams came back in. End of the half the Thunder were ahead by 14 points. Stevie split some FTs and missed a hook shot but he buried a two-pointer late in the half, sweet as.
Gordon Hayward only played 21 minutes as well, scoring 9 points despite averaging around 22 a game usually. That Jeff Withey bloke who started instead of Gobert didn’t do much either. In fact not a soul on the Jazz starting block here made it to double figures. Alec Burks did some damage off the bench on the way to 21 points while Aussie Dante Exum scored 22 in an impressive outing for him. Those guys weren’t on the court as the Thunder started the second half on a 14-5 run to turn a 62-48 lead into a 76-53 one. Steven Adams scored the last bucket of that streak (which he then sorta ended when he accidentally kicked the ball next possession). Also Exum did actually play the last few minutes of that run, but you know... narrative technicalities.
About Exum and Burks though, they got supplying in the fourth as the Jazz sliced the lead down to seven points on a couple occasions. Don’t worry, Russell Westbrook was still playing. 33 points, 14 assists and 11 rebounds and his 32nd triple-double of the season. Hombre.
Welcome To Loud City: “I’m not overly concerned about Adams, I think when the time comes he will naturally step up, it’s in his nature to rise to the occasion and Oladipo just needs reminding that he is a better player today than he was 7 months ago and to trust that.”
More WTLC: “The “Stache bros.” did their thing on the inside as OKC blatantly exploited an interior void left by Rudy Gobert’s absence. Adams picked up four offensive boards, and nine overall, as Kanter bulled his way to 16 points in 18 minutes. Overall, OKC outscored Utah 58-44 in the paint.”
at BROOKLYN NETS (W 122-104)
Ah look, it’s the NBA Kiwi Duel, Steven Adams up against… well he’s the only NZ player in the league at the moment but the Nets are Generally Managed by Sean Marks and that counts. So Adams got himself a contest against those Marksy acquisitions, the Caris LeVert or Isaiah Whitehead types. A team full of unpolished hopeful diamonds, injury plagued vets and Brook Lopez. And the Lope was good to go after a few recent injuries.
Lopez is a tough dude, no doubts about that. He’s stuck on a terrible team and that’s not his fault but he goes out there and plays hard all the same. Lately he’s taught himself a three-point shot too and that kind of thing is nightmarish for a player like Adams. He drags you away from the rim and frees up space for them guards to attack the hoop. Lopez took 43 seconds before he hit a triple (he was 3/6 for the night).
But 14 seconds later Adams drew a foul on that same dude and on the ensuing possession he made use of Russell Westbrook’s first assist of a game that was full of them with a nice dunk. A little later he repeated the dose only this time on the run. Damn, that step son. Keep it coming.
OKC were up five when Steve sat but Trevor Booker overcame that difference on his own, draining from 27 feet near the 1Q buzzer. 32-32 the score, Russ already with 9 points and 8 assists. End of the half and they were still tied up at 62-62.
This time Adams had the benefit of a 9-point lead when he emerged midway through the second quarter. Immediately Brook Lopez cut into that with Taj Gibson fouling the lad to send him to the line. Despite Oladipo hitting the odd shot, Jeremy Lin was also playing really well and it took Kiwi Steve hitting from two feet with six seconds left just for that tied game. He sorta owed it after picking up a couple fouls (both involving Brook).
Obviously when a team fast on their way to a 12-54 record shoot 57.5% on you in the first half, there are questions to be asked about the defence. They did a lot better with their adjustments after the break but seeing Adams and also Andre Roberson, the two defensive leaders here, both struggling with fouls.
Weird thing was, as the Thunder pulled away in the second half, as they were always likely to do (outscoring Brooklyn 60-42 in the back two frames), the crowd started cheering for Westbrook. In Brooklyn, they were giving an opposition player MVP chants and begging him to get the last few rebounds for his 70th career triple double. He got them too, finishing a weak shooting night of 6/18 but making up for that with 25 points, 19 assists and 12 rebounds. Oladipo added 21 points, Taj Gibson continued his starting flourishing with 17 points. Enes Kanter added 17 more off the bench.
For the Nets it was Lopez with 25 points (9/15 FG) & 6 rebounds while Lin scored 24 points in 26 minutes for a season high. Rookie Caris LeVert had 16 which is bound to please Kiwi Sean.
Not a lot of Steve in this one, although he did pick of Spencer Dinwiddie for the game-clinching steal with 24 seconds left. 29 minutes on the court is a bit less than his usuals as well, fouls were a part of that but his fifth came with only a couple minutes left and the result all but sorted.
As for Russie: “With 19 assists against the Nets tonight, Westbrook now *only* needs to average 7.5 rebounds and 8.8 assists in the final 15 games to average a triple-double this season.”
This was the Thunder’s first road win after seven straight defeats. In order, since a late-January double road win over Utah and New Orleans, here are the teams that beat them: Cleveland, San Antonio, Indiana, Washington, Portland, Phoenix & Dallas.
Steven Adams: “I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t know it was that many. [Westbrook] told us this morning. Maybe it fired us up, maybe it didn’t, but it’s just one of those things where we really needed to come out and just finish them, because even though it’s a team with a record like Brooklyn, it’s very hard to win on the road regardless of who the team is.”
ODDS & ENDS
NewsOK: “At 42.2, Westbrook is on pace to smash the record for usage percentage in a season set by Kobe Bryant (38.74) in 2005-06. Yet, in the past two games, when Westbrook has looked to facilitate first (albeit against short-handed San Antonio and Utah squads), other Thunder players have shot a combined 53 percent (68-of-127) from the field.”
Steven Adams was 10/16 in those games and would add another 4/5 in the next one.
If Steven Adams Fan Fiction is your thing, the following website is about to be bookmarked:
Thunderous Intentions: “Looking at game time, if Adams plays more than 30 minutes the OKC Thunder have a 20-12 record. It is good to have a positive record when your starting center plays long minutes. There is a difference between playing time and being active. So I took all of the games over 30 minutes out where he took less than eight shots. This becomes 22 games. The Thunder have a 15-7 record when this happens.”