Tuesday Bolts – 4.18.17

Enes Kanter is the ultimate hype man: “Big mistake — chairs are tough. I fractured a bone. You always hate to let the team down, no matter what. But with something like this … man, it was worse than just you are letting the team down. It was also embarrassing. I felt depressed about it, you know? It’s like, Enes, what did you do? How are you gonna break your forearm by punching a chair? I remember, after this injury happened, and we found out I would miss a month or so … I was just really dreading the thought of everyone on the team being mad at me. Yelling at me. You figure, an incident like this, something that affects the team’s chances in such a negative way, people are going to be upset. Especially Russ — who cares about this team, and about winning, more than anyone. But I’ll never forget Russ’s response in the locker room after. The first thing he did was go right up to me and ask how I was doing. O.K. … you might be thinking. He asked how you were doing. So what? And yeah — that may not sound like much. But it meant a lot. It was a way of showing, I think, that he cares about me as a person, and that my health comes before even worrying about the team’s record and stuff.”

Fred Katz on the Thunder executing: “Game 2 was OKC coach Billy Donovan’s time to adjust after allowing Aldridge to slice from mid-range. Except that didn’t happen. The Thunder defense played the exact same way. It merely executed better, just as Donovan wanted. “I don’t know if there’s any adjustments we need to make,” Donovan said before that game. “We need to do a better job on his shots, breaking him down.” It’s a year later now. And that mentality stands for the present, too, coming off Sunday’s 31-point loss to Houston in Game 1 of the Thunder’s first-round playoff series. The Thunder allowed the Rockets to score 118.7 points per 100 possessions in Game 1, almost 14 points more than OKC’s defensive season average. The Thunder did it on the same night they unveiled a new pick-and-roll defense designed specifically for the Rockets, switching on ball-screens for Houston star James Harden.”

Tom Ley of Deadspin on OKC’s inability to play Kanter in the playoffs: “It sure looks like Donovan is turning to assistant Mo Cheeks there and saying, “Can’t play Kanter.” He’s probably right about that. Kanter has always been a decent big man off the bench when he’s only asked to score and rebound, but his defensive deficiencies are too much to suffer when facing a team that is as deadly in the pick-and-roll as the Rockets are. It’s no coincidence the Utah Jazz, who start defensive player of the year candidate Rudy Gobert at center, traded Kanter away. Kanter being so bad on defense that his presence on the floor becomes untenable looks to be an annual playoff occurrence for the Thunder—remember when he was taken out of the rotation almost entirely during the Western Conference Finals last season? It’s a particularly troubling one this year, with the Thunder’s non-Westbrook offensive firepower at a dangerous low.”

Gene Simmons: Real recognize real

Brett Dawson on Andre Roberson’s career game: “Shoot it!” the man shouted. Section 124 at the Toyota Center isn’t so close that Andre Roberson could hear him, but Roberson obliged anyway, launching a first-quarter 3-pointer that the fan — and the Houston defense — dared him to shoot swished. The Thunder forward would keep shooting in his team’s 118-87 Game 1 loss to the Rockets, and though the game got away from Oklahoma City, Roberson kept sinking shots. Roberson finished with a playoff career-high 18 points on 7-of-10 shooting, including 4 of 6 from 3-point range. “I just told myself, ‘Take what the game gives to you,’” Roberson said. “We’ve been through this before, and I kinda sensed that they were gonna leave me open from the last game we played them. So I just shot the ball, let it go. With confidence. That’s the key.”

Dawson on Oladipo’s shooting struggles: “Before he’d even dressed, Oladipo — who scored six points and shot 1 for 12 in his playoff debut — sat at his locker in the Toyota Center, iPad in hands, poring over a play, then tapping the screen to see another. “It’s different when you’re playing in it and when you actually watch it,” Oladipo said at Monday’s practice. So Oladipo looked over film in the locker room and again later Sunday night, he said, searching for clues as to why his jumper went awry after a regular season in which he made 46.8 percent of his shots in four meetings with Houston.”

Will Pennington looks at how Sam Presti’s influence has geared the Thunder towards this point: “Presti’s path was paved not with probabilities but with people. From the kids he fell in with in high school, to his college journey. From the time he was an underpaid intern sleeping in the Spurs training facility to his current standing as one of the most respected executives in sports, Sam Presti makes meaningful impacts on the people he interacts with, and they too seem to make a meaningful impact on Sam. “You know how long my interview was for this job?” Billy Donovan, the Thunder’s head coach asked in Lee Jenkins piece. “Ten hours. Sam is going to turn over every rock, flip it around and study it from every angle. You take comfort in that level of preparation.”