at PHOENIX SUNS (L 120-99)
33 MINS | 12 PTS (4/10 FG, 4/6 FT) | 11 REB | 2 AST | 2 PF
at DENVER NUGGETS (W 106-105)
27 MINS | 10 PTS (4/9 FG, 2/2 FT) | 10 REB | 2 AST | 1 STL | 1 TO | 4 PF
at MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES, 12.00pm Wednesday (NZT)
vs DENVER NUGGETS, 12.00pm Thursday (NZT)
at PHOENIX SUNS (L 120-99)
This feature is all about Steven Adams. It’s his nickname in the title and he’s the main selling point. Keeping kiwis up to date on the exploits of our finest basketballer, right? But over in Oklahoma City there’s only one bloke who matters and his name… is Victor Ola-… no wait, his name is Russell Westbrook.
Having tied the record with the 41st triple double of his season the other day, Russ then fell one rebound short against the Grizzlies of beating Oscar Robertson’s now famous mark (hands up who’d even thought about that record twelve months ago… anyone?). So when the Thunder travelled to play Phoenix there was only one thing that anyone was really looking for, especially with OKC’s playoff seeding all but guaranteed (it’s confirmed now – Thunder vs Rockets, woohoo).
Russ had scored 51 and 48 in two of his three games against Phoenix this season. He knows that he can score on these dudes and as such we saw him out there early looking to move the ball around and get others involved. You know, pad the assists. Adams missed from six feet on the first shot of the game and Westbrook would turn the ball over three times before he even took a field goal. Which he missed. As it happens, that was a bad plan. A fourth turnover from Russ and a second missed hook shot from Steve and OKC were down 14-4 already. Against a bottom lottery team.
Steve still got a few boards and he actually had an assist way before Russ did. He split a pair of free throws to at least add something to the score but OKC just weren’t defending the Suns guards what with Andre Roberson out injured. Shows you what his impact is on this team and all that. Enes Kanter was in for Steve after only six minutes. He was back in for Taj Gibson a minute later and played out the quarter... the Thunder were down 32-19. Then they got outscored by another ten points in the second quarter. Kiwi Steve shot 2/3 in the second and split two more free throws (hey, 50% is alright at this stage). But this was super ugly.
Except for this. This was just plain funny. Giz him the ball, eah.
The Suns’ lead was as high as 28 points and Russ in the first half… he was sort of terrible. Missed his first 11 shots and wouldn’t make a field goal until hitting from the mid-range with 50 seconds left in the first half. At the break he was 2/13 with 6 turnovers. 7 rebounds and 3 assists as well. 71 points conceded in one half against a team on their way to only their 23rd win of the season.
Spoiler alert: there was no comeback on the horizon. Not even close. However what we got instead was a slapstick comedy show worthy of all the Netflix money. Westbrook pretty much gave up shooting so that he could log in those assists and at least get something outta this match. He came out fired up, dishing to Gibson, dishing to Adams and dishing to Oladipo within 90 seconds of the restart and that third assist meant six for the game – guaranteeing a season’s average in triple-double range. Magnifico.
Hahaha but he kept on passing. Like, to the point where he was turning down blatantly wide open shots to serve one up to some guy in major traffic. For example all of this right here. The one in the corner where he throws it back into Adams with no room to move. Or the first one, Adams getting the ball around the edge of the painted area and dishing a perfectly fine pass around the triangle and getting jeered for it. Even away crowds have got Russell’s records in mind now and this happened all fourth quarter.
The worst one was where Adams got booed for not taking a three pointer! He can hardly make a free throw these days and he’s meant to pop one from deep simply because Westbrook passed it. It was pretty funny stuff and the hilarity wasn’t lost on basketball media.
But he finished two assists shy. The Suns made it their mission to deny him and the fouls started flowing. Jared Dudley’s one on Adams is in the clip, as is Tyler Ulis’ on Russ. Eventually Billy Donovan took mercy and replaced the starters with a few minutes left. Maybe next time, aye?
NewsOK: “When he re-entered the game with 8:51 left in the fourth, every time Westbrook shot instead of passing, there was a collective groan from the crowd. Deafening boos rained down on Steven Adams when he was sent to the foul line after passing up a 3-point attempt off a Westbrook pass.”
Welcome to Loud City: “Unfortunately for OKC, the final half of play resembled a disjointed, and contrived pick-up affair in which Westbrook was simply gunning for his lone spot in the record books. Amid this disarray, minus the wing pair of Andre Roberson and Alex Abrines, Coach Billy Donovan threw various lineups with half-hearted intent at his 23-win counterpart, though nothing seemed to fit.”
Daily Thunder: “I know we all love Steven Adams, but how many push-shots do we have to see before we all join hands across America? He’s too big and unbreakable for all of the weak stuff he brings when there is an avenue to get closer to the rim.”
at DENVER NUGGETS (W 106-105)
Okay then, how about this time? The third to last chance that Russ was gonna have for #42 and up against a Nuggets team watching their playoff chances slip from their grasp despite a promising second half to the campaign. Nik Jokic and all that – ooh guess who Steven Adams was up against here? Jokic, yeah... you already figured that out.
This time around, Russell wasn’t cutting any corners. He got as deeply involved as he possibly could from the outset, with a rebound and a 19-footer before some folks had even swiped their EFTPOS cards at the concession stand. Adams had a couple highlights early too, a tip in offensive board for one thing, but nobody was really paying attention. Barely three minutes into the contest, Westbrook already had two in each of his usual TD columns.
First quarter buckets for Enes Kanter ensured the Thunder maintained their slight lead into the second but they were down by six when Adams got to the scorer’s table again. Jokic re-entered at the same timeout… though his first act was to foul Russ for a few more points. That wasn’t gonna be an issue for Westbrook on this day. He had 23 points and 12 rebounds in the first half although the Nuggets did hold a 53-52 lead. Only six assists, that much was still in the oven after 2Qs. Can’t say Steve wasn’t doing his finest to help here though, out-running Jokic on the break and finishing like a badass up top. Always love some of this from Kiwi Steve.
Bang bang, Adams draws the shooting foul off of Dan Gallinari and makes both free throws. Danny G scored six combined points on either side of that effort but Adams got up with a couple offensive boards, putting back his second effort second effort (he missed the first and rebounded it) for more points. Then he assisted on a Gibson dunk – all of that within two minutes of the third quarter commencing.
However while Gibson’s dunk had tied things at 68-all, it was also the catalyst for a 14-1 run by the Nuggets that seemed to put them in complete control here. Russell Westbrook has had a few heroic late runs to overturn leads much bigger than that lately but contrary to the myth, he couldn’t do it all himself. Especially since he still needed more assists. He got to nine of them and the crowd by then were audibly sucking in breaths whenever he passed to an open guy… and they kept on missing. It was a game within a game, alright. And it wasn’t helped that the ol’ alley-oop wasn’t much of an option with Steve sitting most of the fourth for offence.
Finally it happened. A pass to Semaj Christon (Thunder playing pretty small without Adams on the court) in the corner and the little fella made it count. Standing ovation. Shout out on the PA system. General hysteria on basketball twitter. It was beautiful, a 42nd triple double for the season from a man who’s gaining plenty of momentum in the MVP race as it hits the sprint for the finish. Three guys missed on assisted shots from Russ before Christon made his.
Aaand then he took scoring matters into his own hands once and for all. Christon’s three made it 101-91 with 4:16 to play in the game. It was still a 10-point deficit when Adams came back in 30 seconds later. Same deal with 2:28 remaining until Russ hit for two. Then Jokic turned it over and Russ made free throws. It was getting closer. Probably coulda done without Adams giving away back to back fouls to have himself in some trouble there with four personals late in a close game.
OKC were still down seven when Russ took a defensive board with 54 seconds left. The rest of the game is best viewed as it happened. Just know that there were people actually in that arena (you can see and hear them!) who witnessed this happening live with their own eyes. Three FTs and a Wilson Chandler offensive foul. A driving RW layup and a missed runner from Jokic. Thunder time-out. And now, folks, we return to our match coverage with the Thunder down by one with less than three seconds on the clock…
ESPN/AP: “The crowd gave Westbrook a standing ovation after he broke Robertson's record with his 10th assist with 4:17 remaining. Then, those same fans stood in stunned silence after watching Westbrook score his team's final 15 points, including the game-winner after Steven Adams took the inbounds pass from Kyle Single with 2.9 seconds left and dished to Westbrook, whose long jumper ringed through the iron as the horn sounded.”
Just a casual fist-pump from Steve though. He got his assist.
50 points, 16 rebounds, 10 assists and only 2 turnovers for Westbrook. Including the dagger blow game-winner that eliminated the Nuggets from postseason contention. This was heroic stuff and definitely gonna be featured strongly in his 2016-17 highlight reel. A very solid showing from The Funaki too though. 10 points and 10 rebounds, he’s starting to get back towards his early season form and just in time for the playoffs too.
Thunder Digest: “Nikola Jokic came into the game as having one of the better post ASB in the NBA. However, Steven Adams and Co. found themselves holding him to 23 points on 8-of-16 shooting, six rebounds and only three assists.”
Daily Thunder: “Steven Adams had a double-double with 10 points, 10 rebounds, 2 assists and 1 steal. Solid game for Steve, as he pulled down 6 offensive rebounds and logged his 10th straight game with at least three offensive rebounds.”
ODDS & ENDS
Thunderous Intentions (on Rockets playoff matchup): “It’s going to come down to how well Victor Oladipo can neutralize Eric Gordon on the offensive end while pressuring him on defense. The winner will be decided by whether or not Steven Adams and Enes Kanter can stay on the court against Houston’s spread-it-out system. Is it possible that the Thunder have the coaching advantage despite D’Antoni’s push for Coach of the Year? Looking at Billy Donovan’s small playoff sample size compared to D’Antoni’s repeated playoff failures and it appears that way.”
WTLC: “As I have mentioned before, the Drebs from the PF position have been low, and Andre Roberson and Steven Adams are usually tasked with guarding the best perimeter scorer and primary Big. This has left Russ to continue to clean the glass as a defensive measure as well as to initiate the fast break and the offense. Russ's Drebs have increased by 3 and he has moved closer to the rim.”
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