The Oklahoma City Thunder moved to 22-12 on Friday night in Phoenix, overcoming the absence of Paul George (quad contusion) to score a 118-102 victory over the Suns. Russell Westbrook led the way with a season-high 40 points, but it was Dennis Schroder who provided the juice when it mattered most.
With the Suns leading 84-81 to start the fourth quarter, Schroder went to work with Westbrook and Steven Adams on the bench — shaking a 3-of-12 shooting start to spark the rally. After knocking down a pair of mid-range jumpers, Schroder put the Thunder up for good with a three-pointer at the 10:17 mark. Westbrook and Adams checked back in less than a minute later and things proceeded to get ugly. All told, OKC outscored Phoenix 37-18 in the fourth quarter to win it going away. Schroder finished as a +19 in the final frame, scoring 15 of his 20 points to shut it down.
Westbrook posted a monstrous line with George unavailable: 40 points, 12 rebounds, eight assists and a 17-of-29 shooting clip. He came out ultra-aggressive with 15 points on 7-of-8 shooting in the first quarter, but missed all four of his shots and scored just two points in the second. He was a -6 in an extremely forgettable third quarter — but finished strong with 16 points (2/3 3P) in the fourth. Great start, great finish for the former MVP. His nine combined points in the second and third quarters had the Thunder in troubled waters until Schroder rose from the dead.
Aside from Westbrook and Schroder, the story of the night belongs to Abdel Nader, who took advantage of a short Thunder bench to score 18 points on 7-of-13 shooting. With George and Alex Abrines (illness) both out — and Terrance Ferguson logging just seven minutes before falling ill himself — Nader shot 2-of-4 from long range and did a reasonably good job defending Devin Booker (25 pts, 7 reb, 10 ast). I reckon he’s earned himself a few more minutes moving forward.
The Thunder return to action on Sunday, facing Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks at 6:00 PM CST. That game will be televised on Fox Sports Oklahoma.
Russell Westbrook: 40 pts, 12 reb, 8 ast, 17/29 FG, 3/7 3P, 3/6 FT, +6
The Fourth Quarter. The Thunder outscored Phoenix 37-18 in the fourth, with Westbrook and Schroder scoring 29 points on 11-of-14 shooting. The Suns shot 6-of-19 (31.6 percent) in the final 12 minutes — a letdown after shooting 46 percent and holding the lead through three quarters of play.
In the Paint. The Thunder won 49-34 on the glass and outscored Phoenix 76-48 in the paint. In a solid night for the OKC bigs, Steven Adams had 12 points, 13 rebounds, three blocks and three steals. Jerami Grant added 12 points, eight rebounds, and three steals. Nerlens Noel (+11) didn’t score but contributed four steals, two assists, and a block in 13 minutes. He and Patrick Patterson (2 pts, 1/2 FG, +4) were both on the floor when the Thunder took control for good in the fourth quarter.
Ray & Hamidou. Along with Schroder, Patterson, and Noel, it was Raymond Felton and Hamidou Diallo on the floor when the Thunder seized control late. Felton (-2) had four points and two assists in 12 minutes. Diallo (+10) logged 14 minutes and wrapped up his night with six points.
Riding the Seesaw. There were 22 lead changes and eight ties in this one. There were a few times it genuinely felt like the Suns were going to hand OKC their third straight loss. However, the biggest Thunder deficit was six points — they hung around until slamming it shut late.
The Other Guys. Booker had 25 points, seven rebounds, and 10 assists. TJ Warren added 19 points, Deandre Ayton tacked on 16, and Mikal Bridges wrapped up their double-digit scorers with 13. The Suns aren’t good yet — as OKC sweeps the season series — but they’re improving. Looked like they had the Thunder’s number through three quarters tonight.
The Standings. The Thunder are 22-12 after snapping their two-game slide and are currently tied with the Golden State Warriors for second in the Western Conference. Both teams trail the first place Nuggets by a half game.