Alex Abrines

Russell Westbrook air-balls free throw

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Russell Westbrook is shooting just 60% on his free throws this season. That’s 13 percentage points below his previous career low and 20 percentage points below his career average.

Rock bottom might have come on this air-balled attempt against the Timberwolves last night. Even for an air-ball, that was way short.

Westbrook rallied from there, scoring 11 points on 5-of-7 shooting with two assists and two rebounds the rest of the game. He even hit the go-ahead layup with 23 seconds left.

But after Andrew Wiggins answered to put Minnesota up with 14 seconds left and Alex Abrines missed on the other end, the Thunder had to intentionally foul. They trailed by one.

Minnesota added a free throw for a 114-112 win.

Warriors get rings, still have Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and that’s too much for OKC

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For Oklahoma City, this game was encouraging. Paul George had 27 points and five assists, pushing the Thunder in the second half, but that was almost expected with Russell Westbrook out (still recovering from off-season knee surgery). What was more encouraging was Dennis Schroder‘s 21 points, 9 rebounds, and six assists, he is going to be a valuable shot creator for this team off the bench. It was encouraging to see Steven Adams looking solid with 17 points and 11 boards. It was encouraging to see a couple of threes from Alex Abrines off the bench. The Thunder put up a fight.

However, there are no moral victories.

The Warriors won on opening night in Oakland and it didn’t even feel like they had to break a sweat.

Stephen Curry dropped 32 points, reminded everyone he is a master of getting space for his shot off the pick-and-roll, and he hit five threes. Kevin Durant had 27 points and was the guy who took on the defensive responsibility for George much of the night (and did an okay job, but struggled following him on off-ball picks). And the new center combination of Damian Jones (12 points on 6-of-7 shooting, three blocked shots) and Kevon Looney (10 points, good game on both ends and was +22) held down the center spot reasonably well.

It was a good night for the Warriors. First they got their championship rings.

Then started out the season with a 108-100 win.

The one concern for the Warriors was Andre Iguodala leaving the game in the second quarter with what was described as a tight left calf, and he did not return.

Mostly though, the Warriors won this game the way they will win a lot more this season — because they have more talent than the team they are playing and can overwhelm them. Klay Thompson was cold (1-of-8 from three, but it doesn’t matter if one of the scorers goes cold because another one will step up. That was Curry.

The game was a bit sloppy, as first games of the season tend to be. But for both teams, there were good takeaways, positives they can build on as they go through the remaining 81 games.

It’s just the Warriors have a lot more talent on the roster, so they start 1-0.

Thunder’s Andre Roberson suffers setback in rehab, will be re-evaluated in two months

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Last season, the Oklahoma City Thunder’s defense was 11.2 points per 100 possessions better when Andre Roberson was on the court — he was the fifth man who gave them a killer lineup (with Russell Westbrook, Paul George, Steven Adams, and back then Carmelo Anthony). That starting five was +14.2 per 100 possessions, and it was rumored that what Roberson brings to the table for this team was a key reason George thought Oklahoma City could win and re-signed with them.

Which is why this is terrible news for OKC — it’s going to be a while before we see Roberson on the court as he has had a setback in his recovery from a torn patellar-tendon injury that had him out the end of last season and into the playoffs.

That would have him being re-evaluated in early December. Roberson had said he had hoped to be back on the court and his old self by Christmas, now that timeline will be pushed back.

The real problem here for OKC is their lack of depth on the wing — they don’t have a quality replacement for him.  Terrance Ferguson, Alex Abrines, and Timothe Luwawu are going to get most of Roberson’s minutes, but that is a serious talent drop off. It’s also a real concern in the West, where after Golden State and Houston the margins are incredibly slim. This could impact the Thunder’s playoff seeding.

Report: Celtics trade Abdel Nader to Thunder

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Abdel Nader was one of those second-round gambles by the Celtics — the No. 58 pick in the 2016 NBA draft — that paid off better than expected. Nader was the D-League Rookie of the Year, then last season the wing got into 48 games for the big club in Boston, showing some potential as a three-point shooter (but also struggling with his efficiency in other areas).

Boston wanted to trim some salary now, so Nader is on his way to Oklahoma City (once the Carmelo Anthony trade goes through and they have cap space).

Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports broke the story.

That cash will undoubtedly cover Nader’s $1.4 million salary, plus some more to help offset the crazy tax bill the Thunder still have coming. The Celtics will waive Purvis, who does not have a guaranteed deal.

All of this will save the Celtics about $450,000, getting them closer to going under the luxury tax line, they are about $2.5 million over it currently. (With this roster the Celtics are eventually going to pay a huge tax bill, but if they can avoid paying the tax this season that delays the painful repeater tax by a year, helping down the line. Expect to see more cash saving moves, don’t be shocked if Marcus Morris is the one on the trade block.)

While Andre Roberson and Paul George will start on the wing for OKC, Nader may be able to find minutes behind them. The Thunder have a mix of guys — Terrance Ferguson, Alex Abrines, Timothe Luwawu, Kyle Singler — who have yet to fully establish themselves in the league. Nader will have a chance to crack that group and get some run, if he can take several steps forward with this game.

Watch Paul George turn into Playoff P as Thunder beat Jazz (VIDEO)

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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) Paul George scored 36 points to help the Oklahoma City Thunder defeat the Utah Jazz 116-108 in Game 1 of their Western Conference playoff series on Sunday night.

George set an Oklahoma City playoff record with eight 3-pointers, blowing past the previous record of five. He made eight of 11 shots from long range, and 13 of 20 shots overall. It was his first playoff game with the Thunder since being acquired in a trade with the Indiana Pacers in the offseason.

Russell Westbrook had 29 points, 13 rebounds and eight assists and Carmelo Anthony added 15 points for the Thunder, who will host Game 2 on Wednesday.

Jazz rookie Donovan Mitchell had 27 points and 10 rebounds, but he left in the second half with left foot soreness. He returned in the fourth quarter but was noticeably hobbling.

Rudy Gobert scored 14 points, and Joe Ingles and Jae Crowder each added 13 for the Jazz.

The Thunder recovered from a 16-4 deficit to tie it at 25 at the end of the first quarter. Oklahoma City led 54-48 at halftime behind 20 points from George and 14 from Westbrook.

George hit his seventh 3-pointer to push Oklahoma City’s lead to 79-66. George hit a deep 2-pointer to close the quarter and give the Thunder an 81-72 lead.

Alex Abrines hit two 3-pointers early in the fourth quarter to give Oklahoma City a 92-80 lead and force Utah to call timeout. The Thunder held off a surge in the final minute.

TIP-INS

Jazz: Mitchell made his first four shots, but just one of six the rest of the first half. … Made just eight of 22 shots in the second quarter.

Thunder: G Corey Brewer, who was questionable with a right knee sprain, started. … Anthony scored his 1,700th playoff point. … Oklahoma City made its first 17 free throws and didn’t miss one until the final minute.

UP NEXT

Game 2 will be Wednesday night in Oklahoma City.

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