Thursday Bolts – 4.6.17

Kevin Pelton of ESPN Insider: “Even though Leonard rates second to Westbrook on a per-possession basis in my subjective evaluation, his lower minutes total relegates him to fourth in my MVP rankings. Meanwhile, Harden’s defensive disadvantage relative to James drops him to third with Westbrook comfortably leading the other contenders in terms of wins above replacement. To me, the most valuable player is the one who adds the most wins to his team’s bottom line, and that’s why after consulting the advanced stats Westbrook would be my MVP.”

Nate Scott of FoxSports.com: “It also points to how the Thunder, for all their flaws, are going to be a difficult out in the playoffs. Westbrook can score on anybody, Adams is a fantastic rim protector and rebounder, and Oladipo and Roberson are two fantastic wing defenders. Throw in Kanter’s scoring off the bench, this is a better team than people give them credit for. And with everyone flying around like they did last night, the Thunder can turn the game into a physical track meet, and there are few people alive who can run with Russell Westbrook.”

Victor Oladipo singing.

Banned MacMahon of ESPN.com: “And Westbrook was money when it mattered most. He hit a deep 3 over Harrison to give the Thunder the lead with 2:00 remaining. His next shot was even more breathtaking and cold-blooded: a pull-up dagger 3 in the face of Tony Allen, perhaps the best perimeter defender of the past decade, to put Oklahoma City up four with 14 seconds left. Surprised? You shouldn’t be. Westbrook has been at his best during winning time all season long, which ranks right below the whole triple-double deal among the reasons that he has one heck of a case to be named MVP. Westbrook’s 241 points in the clutch — the final five minutes of a game when the score is within five points — is by far the most in the NBA this season. In fact, according to ESPN Stats & Information research, he’s only 10 points shy of 2007-08 LeBron James for the most clutch points scored by any player in a season over the past 20 years. And the 45-33 Thunder are plus-80 with Westbrook on the floor in those situations.”

Colin Cowherd: “But I don’t understand the fascination with the triple-double. Triple-double is points, assists — now those matter to me, for a point guard — and rebounds. But the league has already told me you don’t care about rebounds. Oscar Robertson averaged a triple-double and was third in the MVP. You showed me you didn’t care about that. You have shown me when Wilt [Chamberlain] averaged 51 points and 25 rebounds a game and got crushed — landslide, Bill Russell won the MVP — that it’s not a stat award. But suddenly, now you care about rebounds for guards?”

(I’m sorry, I have to interject because that is just nonsense: “The league has already told me you don’t care about rebounds.” Ahhh, so why did Ben Wallace win multiple DPOYs? When Oscar triple-doubled, the word hadn’t even been invented yet. It wasn’t history at that time, because 30-10-10 just looked like a great season, but there was nothing significant about it. If you’re using criteria from 1962, you’re doing it wrong, Colin.)

Erik Horne: “Westbrook did hit two clutch free throws with 0.8 of a second left to get the Thunder’s lead back to three … even if he admitted he was trying to miss the last attempt so anyone could tip it and run out the clock. Westbrook’s 3-point percentage (8-of-13, 61.5 percent) was nearly as good as the Thunder’s percentage from the line (62.5). That’s certainly not the statistic he wanted on the stretch run to history, but the win works, pushing the Thunder 3.5 games ahead of Memphis in the Western Conference standings and locking up no lower than the No. 6 seed in the playoffs. When asked if he knew he needed one more rebound for the triple- double, Westbrook said he was happy to get the win instead.”

Tom Haberstroh of ESPN.com: “A week after Silver’s memo leaked, James walked off the team bus and toward the Spurs’ home court, with every intention of playing. Even though this was the third game in four nights, Silver, league partners and fans could breathe a collective sigh of relief. In a cathedral built to Tim Duncan — maybe the NBA’s all-time leader in minutes lost to injury prevention — James would ignore fatigue and suit up for this nationally televised game. That, of course, doesn’t mean he was anything close to 100 percent. Of the 29 Cavs games on national television this season, 14 were scheduled in a back-to-back set. What’s more, four of the five ABC games with the Warriors on the schedule came in a back-to-back set.”

Berry Tramel: “If Westbrook goes scoreless in each of OKC’s final five games, Harden could catch him for the scoring title by averaging 37.8 points a game. If Westbrook averages a pedestrian 15 points a game down the stretch – he’s scored under 20 points only eight times all season – Harden would have to average 46.8 points in the final five games. So the scoring title is Westbrook’s. In NBA history, only 12 scoring champions have averaged a double double. And only one player, Nate Archibald in 1972-73, did so with points and assists. The other 11 were forwards or center. And no player has achieved the 30/10 threshold since Shaquille O’Neal in 2000.”

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