Monday Bolts: 12.23.19

Monday Bolts: 12.23.19

ICYMI: Olivia Panchal recaps last night’s comeback win over the Los Angeles ClippersBrandon Rahbar recaps Friday Night’s victory against the Phoenix Suns.

The Thunder’s official twitter account put together a fun montage of fan videos of the final few minutes of OKC’s close-out of the Clippers:

Paul George received a welcoming ovation in his first trip to Chesapeake Energy Arena in a Clipper’s jersey:

Per Andrew Grief (Los Angeles Times): In a night supposedly about George’s return, the real story was the play by former Clipper, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. “Instead of George playing hero against his former team, it was a former Clipper who had the final word. Guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scored 32 points, matching the career high he set one game earlier, to help Oklahoma City dominate the second half by picking apart a once-sterling Clippers defense.”

George’s first trip back to OKC was marked mostly by appreciation–on both sides–pens Royce Young (ESPN). “George’s reception was a drastic change from the Thunder’s previous notable return game, when Kevin Durant came back in 2017 after joining the Golden State Warriors. That game was filled with boos and negative chants at Durant as fans expressed extreme disapproval with his decision to leave. The circumstances around George’s departure are considerably different, with the Thunder receiving something in return, as well as having a different emotional connection.”

Berry Trammel (The Oklahoman) says that the trade of George was actually a blessing, thanks to SGA. “The monumental favor that George did the Thunder last summer – asking for a trade to the Clippers – was presented in full splendor Sunday night at Chesapeake Energy Arena. The Thunder beat the Clippers 118-112 to run its winning streak to four and its record above .500 (15-14) for the first time all season. And 21-year-old Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, the cornerstone of the Thunder’s side of the trade, was the star of the show. While George struggled, SGA was sublime – a career high 32 points for the second straight game, five assists and two blow-by-George drives down the stretch when the Thunder trailed and needed baskets on virtually every possession.”

How about the way Dennis Schroder has been playing?

Schroder wants to be a starter, but off to the best start of his career and early sixth man of the year talks, Erik Horne (The Athletic) asks should Schroder want to start? “Did Schroder still want to be a starter? ‘Always,’ Schroder said. ‘The situation is whatever it is right now. I’m willing to take whatever it is, helping the organization, the team. But for sure, everybody here knows I can start. But right now, the situation is the best situation. I’m a team player but I’m coming off the bench to try to do as much as I can to help the team.’

The sixth man is also on pace to set a record for most 20-point games off the bench by December 31. With his fifth such game against the Clippers, the Schrodie has four more chances to break his tie with Manu Ginobili for most all-time. Elias reported on Friday that Schroder has notched four 20-point games after Schroder’s 24-point output against the Suns.

Erik Horne (The Athletic) with some takeaways from the Thunder’s win over the Suns. “Without being a jerk, Paul can be critical of his young understudy (particularly his defense) but Gilgeous-Alexander left him impressed Friday. When Gilgeous-Alexander scored on that Euro step, Paul was standing right in front of me, so I got a great look at him making a prime stink face and mouthing the words ‘got … damn’ very slowly.”

After setting a career-high with 32 points against the Suns, Duane Ranking (Arizona Republic) called Shai a star. “He’s a rising star, folks. Can get his own shot. Knock down the 3, Create off the bounce. Defends well. Is a little slight of build, but that doesn’t stop him from going to the rim. Gilgeous-Alexander finished with 32 points on 13-of-18 shooting. He knocked down his two 3-ball attempts and Phoenix simply couldn’t contain him.”

Chris Paul’s impressive (maybe neurotic) attention to the NBA rules is one of Zach Lowe’s (ESPN) ten things he likes. “You can understand why Paul grates on some teammates. He never stops searching for small edges — and telling you about them. He is usually right. He will do anything to win. He is the WWE heel who hides a foreign object in his tights or exposes the turnbuckle when the officials aren’t looking.”

John Hollinger (The Athletic) dishes on the Western Conference’s “competition” for the final two playoff spots, and says OKC has the best chance of the West’s also-rans to make the playoffs. “And here, ladies and gentlemen, is the ultimate signifier of the laughable playoff race in the conference. The Oklahoma City Thunder, a team that began the season with no particular interesting in making the playoffs and a giant ‘for sale’ sign attached to all of its best players, is by far the best of these nine teams through a third of the season.”

Chris Kirschner (The Athletic) reports that the Atlanta Hawks are interested in trading for Steven Adams. “So, obviously, center has to be addressed. According to The Athletic’s Shams Charania, Oklahoma City is open to accepting the higher salaries that teams want to move, including long-term deals. The Thunder’s Steven Adams is one of those players who could be dealt before the deadline, and he is someone who has been discussed by the Hawks, according to a source inside the organization. Adams will make $27 million next season before becoming a free agent in 2021, which is the year Giannis Antetokounmpo could explore free agency, so acquiring Adams would not impact the Hawks during what could be a loaded free agency class.”

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