Tuesday Bolts – 3.14.17

Russell Westbrook is still No. 1 in Stats and Info’s player rankings: “Westbrook won the week in resounding fashion, finishing with an average game score of 32.1 that was a full six points ahead of James Harden. It’s a continuation of what has been otherworldly play since the All-Star break, as the gap between Westbrook and the second-ranked player over that span (Davis) is larger than the gap between Davis and the 15th-ranked player. He has had six triple-doubles in 10 games, along with a 48-point, 17-rebound, 9-assist gem against the Suns and a 58-point outburst in a loss to Portland. Thanks to this push, Westbrook is threatening to join LeBron James, David Robinson, Michael Jordan and Larry Bird as the only players to finish a season with an average game score of 25 and is doing it despite a historic number of turnovers and mostly inefficient shooting, two variables punished by game score.”

Taj Gibson in a Q&A: “Just trying to be a professional, first. Not step on anybody’s toes. Just try to fit in. Do what I do best, bring the energy, bring the defense. Whatever coach needs from me. But my work ethic is going to show him that I’m here to play, that I’m here to represent the team at the right way, get up in the morning, come in early, come in late nights, just show that’s the kind of person that I am, and don’t shy away from it. Like coach (Maurice) Cheeks told me today, don’t change the way you’ve been playing. Even though you’re in a new situation, just keep playing the way you’ve been playing all these years. And just fit in.”

Steph picks Harden over Westbrook.

Allen Iverson on MVP: “Russ. When you’re doing something in this day and age, that we’ve never thought we would see ever again; as great as Kawhi is, as great as LeBron is, as great as James Harden is, as great as Isaiah is playing, what Russ is doing is incredible. You’ve got to take your hat off to him for what he’s doing. And taking nothing away from his team, when it comes to the word ‘superstar,’ he’s not playing with superstars. He’s playing with very talented players — he’s got a squad with him, I love his team — but him being the only superstar, and that team going as he goes, he have to recognize that. Get your popcorn before the game starts if your watching a Russell Westbrook.”

Berry Tramel: “The Heat’s 32-35 record has it only a half game out of eighth place and the playoffs in the East. If this Miami team makes the playoffs, it would be an in-season renaissance to trump even Washington. But making the playoffs in the East is relatively easy. Only six Eastern Conference teams currently have a winning record. Becoming an East contender is different. Brooks has made the Wizards an Eastern contender. We’ve got a month left in the season. But Scotty Brooks is the leading contender for NBA coach of the year.”

Marc Stein has OKC 11th: “With 32 triple-doubles in 66 games, Russell Westbrook is on pace for 40 for the season, which would fall just one shy of Oscar Robertson’s all-time record. Westbrook also has a 70 percent chance of averaging a triple-double for ‎the entire season, according to the latest projections from ESPN Insider’s tireless Kevin Pelton, with the Thunder up to 26-6 (.813) when Westbrook triple-doubles and 11-23 (.324) when he doesn’t. After last week’s triple-double against the Spurs, Chicago and Charlotte stand as the last two teams left on the league map that have prevented Westbrook from reaching triple-double territory. Best of all, though, Oklahoma City has moved past slumping Memphis for the West’s No. 6 and would presumably prefer facing Houston and James Harden in Round 1 than San Antonio or Golden State, no matter how vulnerable the West’s top two teams look as we speak.”

NBA.com has OKC 8th: “Billy Donovan finally put Taj Gibson in the starting lineup on Thursday and the move helped the Thunder end a four-game losing streak with wins over the (shorthanded) Spurs and Jazz. Russell Westbrook apparently realized that triple-doubles (he registered Nos. 31 and 32 in the wins) are better for his team than him taking 30-plus shots (like he did three times in the losing streak). Having Victor Oladipo shooting 10-for-15 from 3-point range in his three games back certainly helps in regard to Westbrook’s willingness to pass. He has assisted on seven of the 10 threes.”

Matt Moore of CBSSports.com has OKC 12th: “Thunder teams under Billy Donovan in the first week of March: 0-5. Now what does this mean? Absolutely nothing. Nothing at all. But the Thunder are having a bad time, the losses to Portland, Dallas and Phoenix were outright awful.”