Friday Bolts – 4.21.17

Jenni Carlson looks back at Westbrook’s 4th quarter: “It was almost as if he meant to, though I’m fairly sure he didn’t. Still, it was one of those break-the-fourth-wall moments like Zack Morris in “Saved by the Bell” or Frank Underwood in “House of Cards”. Westbrook didn’t say anything to the viewing like those characters, but his defiant but searching expression did. “What would you have me do?” it seemed to say. A day after Westbrook missed 14 of 18 shots in the fourth quarter, there was much consternation in Thunder Nation. Some say he shot too much and didn’t get his teammates involved. Others contend the guys around him stunk so badly that he had to take over. There’s truth in both arguments.”

Brett Dawson looking at the chess match that is playoff coaching: “You watch a lot of film …” in the playoffs, Donovan said, particularly when there’s more than a day between games. “Just looking at different things that we need to do better, things we can do differently.” The Thunder made significant changes between Games 1 and 2, and though the improvement was apparent, so was the need for further tweaks. With his team down 0-2 entering Friday’s Game 3, Donovan has been back at work on the fine art of fine tuning. Shortly after a game, Donovan dives into film on his iPad. Before he sleeps on a game night, he’ll have re-watched once via his preferred method. He’ll view every Thunder offensive possession first, one after the other, then repeat the process with every defensive trip.”

Fred Katz on the sustainability of Westbrook’s play in the playoffs: “Reporters consistently asked Thunder coach Billy Donovan all season if he thought Westbrook’s numbers were sustainable. More importantly, they wanted to know if one player taking on such a heavy offensive load was sustainable for an offensive attack. Donovan would always give some form of the same answer: “If we’ve gotta have him shoot 40, 44 times to be successful, I don’t think that’s gonna work over the long haul,” he said back in November. “I think Russell knows that. He’s even made some comments about that.” That specific answer was in reference to a high-volume game Westbrook had against Phoenix at the beginning of the season. It’s the game Donovan would consistently reference as the one example of offense that wasn’t sustainable for this team.”

Paul Coro of the LA Times looks at Westbrook’s will and effort in this season: “The cupboard wasn’t bare,” said Nick Collison, playing his 13th season with the Thunder/Seattle SuperSonics franchise. “You’ve got a top-one player, in my opinion. Top two. That’s a great start.” The Thunder undoubtedly would not be where they are without Russell Westbrook, a leading MVP candidate after a historic triple-double season. His Herculean efforts are not always enough, however, and the Thunder enter Friday night’s playoff home debut trailing the Houston Rockets, 2-0, despite Westbrook’s 51-point, 13-assist, 10-rebound effort in Game 2. To drop only from 55 wins to 47 without Durant went beyond Westbrook.

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Cliff Brunt on Oladipo’s struggles: “Westbrook has averaged a triple-double the first two games of the series and dropped a 51-point triple-double on Wednesday night. But the Thunder have no wins to show for his heroics. Oladipo, Oklahoma City’s No. 2 scorer in the regular season, is averaging 8.5 points and shooting a woeful 19 percent from the field in the series. The 24-year-old Oladipo, who played collegiately at Indiana, is trying to keep it simple in the first playoff appearances of his career. “That’s the thing,” Oladipo said, “when you have games like this, you go back to the basics. You go back to what got you here, continue to keep working and never lose confidence.”

Ramona Shelburne of ESPN on how the team views Westbrook after a game like Game 2: “Of particular importance was a 90-second stretch at the end of the third quarter in which the Rockets went on a 12-3 run to cut OKC’s 12-point lead to three with Westbrook on the bench. He rushed back into the game to start the fourth quarter, forgoing the extra two or three minutes of rest he normally takes at the start of the quarter, and played the full 12-minute period. Whether that contributed to Westbrook’s 4-for-18 shooting in the fourth quarter is hard to say. No player has missed as many shots (14) in one quarter of the playoffs in 20 years. But Donovan says Westbrook has earned the right to play all of the fourth quarter and take all those shots.”