Brett Dawson: “Payne presents more options to utilize three-guard lineups using Westbrook, Payne and Oladipo, or subbing in Semaj Christon for one of the three. Oklahoma City has used Westbrook, Oladipo and Christon together sparingly — just 18 minutes this season — but effectively. The Thunder is outscoring opponents by 88 points per 100 possessions with those three on the floor together, the biggest discrepancy of any three-man combination that’s played 10 minutes or more.”
Danny Chau of The Ringer: “But with Westbrook, his late-game hoists have always felt incongruous to the way in which he’s wired, and they unnecessarily highlight the questionable decision-making that has always been the crutch of any criticism against him. They’ve been a vexing fascination of mine for years, and Thursday night’s stagnant, clock-draining isolation 3 with the game tied at 116 was just the latest example. After the game, he was asked about the play.”
My story from Saturday’s game.
Micah Adams of ESPN.com with a hmmm: “With Curry, Durant, Thompson and Green on the court, the Warriors are shooting 57 percent on shots directly following an assist opportunity (a pass that would count as an assist on a made shot). Shot quality goes through the roof with ball movement as well; 44 percent of Golden State’s attempts off a pass result in uncontested looks. By contrast, only 23 percent of the team’s field goal attempts are uncontested when not accompanied by an assist opportunity. When Golden State’s offensive machine successfully strings those two things together — the four on the floor and an open look generated off a pass — the result is offensive nirvana: 65 percent shooting and an incredible 1.54 points per play. However, like on Friday, the ball tends to stick more late in games. With that big four on the floor, 66 percent of their attempts in the first three quarters have come directly off a pass. That number drops to 57 percent in the fourth quarter and overtime, invariably leading to more difficult shots. On contested attempts not accompanied by an assist opportunity in those situations, the Warriors are shooting just 32 percent, including 0-for-11 from beyond the 3-point line — 0-for-9 by Curry and 0-for-2 by Durant.”
Which team has the bounciest balls? An investigation.
Kevin Pelton of ESPN Insider on All-Star starters: “The one valid question is whether Stephen Curry’s superior track record merits a starting spot. That’s certainly a reasonable position; Curry was the MVP each of the past two seasons, after all. But I lean toward Harden and Westbrook because they were both nearly as good at times in that span (Harden mounted a legitimate challenge to Curry’s MVP case in 2014-15), so their performance is hardly fluky. Meanwhile, because of injuries, aging and inevitable regression to the mean, it seems unlikely we’ll ever see Curry match what he did in 2015-16.”
KC Johnson of the Chicago Tribune: “Great players find a way to thrust themselves into the middle of everything, and there’s no denying the force of nature Westbrook is and the run Butler is on. As buzz around Butler’s most valuable player credentials intensifies, Westbrook comes to town packing averages of 31.4 points, 10.6 rebounds and 10.3 assists that don’t easily fit into an overhead compartment. They rank first, 11th and second, respectively. Westbrook posted his 17th triple-double in the Thunder’s victory over the Nuggets on Saturday. And Butler wants that defensive challenge.”