By Connor MacKenzie @grandepadre94
In case anybody needed a reminder: Russell Westbrook is very good at basketball. It has been more than well documented that Westbrook had shooting woes for a good stretch. He is without a doubt the leader and heart of the Thunder team. He only knows how to play one way and he usually does it pretty well. At times sporadic and makes people question his decision making, but he is a ruthless competitor in every game. He shows up and often shows out. He sure reminded many folks how dangerous he is during this 123-114 win over division rival Portland.
Through the last 10 games, his shooting percentage has been trending upwards, his turnovers are trending down, and most importantly his free throw attempts/makes are surging. Tonight Westbrook was 10-12 from the foul line. His aggression was relentless and he let all of his frustration out on this vicious murder on the rim in the 4th Quarter:
Westbrook finished with 29 points, 10 rebounds and 14 assists to 5 turnovers. He played under control and finished plays after a tough 1-4 shooting start (finished 9-20).
Paul George added 36 points (13-15 FT), 8 rebounds, 4 assists, 5 steals and a block in tonight’s victory over Portland. A few strip-six’s late in the 4th and a Westbrook two-hand tomahawk jam sealed the Thunder’s win.
If not for CJ McCollum erupting for six 3s in the 3rd, Oklahoma City would have been up significantly more than 93-85 at the end of the quarter. McCollum finished with 31 points on 11-21 shooting including a scorching 7-11 from deep. Fellow Thunder killer Damian Lillard finished with 34 points on 12-24 shooting, 8 rebounds and 5 assists. Lastly, Jusuf Nurkic, the frequent thorn in Steven Adams’ side finished with a tough earned 22 points and 15 rebounds.
Outside of those three players, no other player scored in double figures (closest Myers Leonard with 9). Meanwhile for the Thunder, all five starters finished with at least 11 points.
Balanced contributions from Oklahoma City role players helped lead to an exciting finish and even sweeter victory for the Thunder as their next contest is back at the Peake Thursday night against the AD-less New Orleans Pelicans. However, seeing as how the Lakers beat down the Thunder without LeBron, do not be surprised if it is a close contest. Players such as Julius Randle, Nikola Mirotic, and Jrue Holiday will be sure to give Oklahoma City fans headaches if not addressed early in the ball game.