Thursday Bolts – 1.5.17

Calvin Watkins of ESPN.com: “Harden has had his own problems against the Thunder. He’s BoltsLogoNewshooting a dismal 25.6 percent from the field, which includes a 3-for-16 from 3-point range. Harden is averaging just 17 points per game against the Thunder this season, more than 11 points under his season average of 28.4. Oklahoma City places forward Andre Roberson — who has a 2-inch height advantage — on Harden. In the Dec. 9 game, Harden was 3-of-14 with six turnovers and 14 points when guarded by Roberson. The Thunder will double-team Harden to get the ball out of his hands, forcing him to make hurried passes.”

Erik Horne: “Russell Westbrook put his face in his hands and bent over. He did it again. Then again. Along the Thunder sideline he was inconsolable. Seconds earlier during a first-quarter timeout at the Spectrum Center, he stood on the Thunder sideline and tossed a ball in the direction of official Tre Maddox along the baseline. As it struck Maddox directly in the head, Westbrook had his arms in the air in immediate apology. Maddox wasn’t looking. Two other officials were. Technical foul.”

This is a big month for Russ. Also, I wrote about how it’s going to be about survival.

Kevin Pelton of ESPN Insider: “When we account for potential assists as Partnow originally did, Westbrook’s true usage is more than two-thirds of Oklahoma City’s plays (66.9 percent, to be exact). There’s no such thing as a one-man offense in basketball, and of course somebody has to be on the receiving end of those passes, but Westbrook is coming as close as we’ve seen in modern NBA history. It’s no surprise, then, that the Thunder offense has collapsed without Westbrook. When he plays, Oklahoma City has averaged 107.4 points per 100 possessions, which would rank eighth in the NBA this season. When Westbrook sits, the Thunder’s offensive rating drops to 97.1, which would be last in the league — 1.5 points per 100 possessions fewer than the Philadelphia 76ers manage.”

OU folks don’t like players wearing KDs.

Rob Mahoney of SI.com on the Rockets: “From that expertise came the notion that James Harden, a three-time All-NBA player, had yet to assume his optimal position. “That,” D’Antoni admits, “was done with some reservations.” For years Harden had worked as Houston’s de facto point guard, but never its literal one. Harden focused his game accordingly. Uncommon vision and undeniable gravity made him a playmaker all the same, though the internal priorities of Harden’s game always tilted toward scoring. When an unstoppable driver is also a proficient shooter and a genius in creating contact to draw fouls, there is an understandable temptation in letting that player create first for himself. The output hasn’t changed (Harden’s scoring and usage rate are effectively identical to last season), though the disposition has. James Harden, point guard, is currently leading the league in assists at 11.9 a game. Nearly half go toward three-pointers, meaning that in the final accounting, Harden is responsible for around 60 points per game as a scorer and passer. The genesis of the move, D’Antoni said, was a matter of playing time economy.”