The Oklahoma City Thunder had a very balanced attack in their 113-93 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves. Six players scored in double figures for the Thunder, led by Kevin Durant’s 21 points, Durant takes the honors as the leading scorer, but Russell Westbrook showed the most balance as he recorded his fourth triple-double of the season. The final line for Westbrook: 12 points, 11 rebounds, 10 assists, and two steals.
Much was made of Westbrook’s ejection in the first half of the team’s game against the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday. It was just the second game of Westbrook’s dynamic career where he went scoreless. It certainly appeared like the Thunder point guard wanted to make up for lost time with his triple-double, which was recorded at the 4:11 mark of the third quarter. In the end, Westbrook did all of his damage in just 27 minutes of action. He sat out the fourth quarter because the Thunder were in complete control.
It’s time for a little bit of honesty. Westbrook can be kind of wild and that can be kind of frustrating to watch. It’s not easy to really criticize one of the five best players in the world, but you have to nitpick sometimes. A lot of the frustration in Westbrook’s game can come on the defensive end of the floor when I watch him. He often uses his athleticism to channel his inner NFL cornerback, meaning he often tries to jump into the passing lane in order to steal the ball and run in transition. Westbrook is able to make this happen quite a bit, but his aggressiveness often leads to the team playing 5-on-4 basketball. When that happens, people can get into foul trouble, the opposition can gain momentum, and you create bad habits. It’s just not a good look.
You don’t want to take away his relentlessness because that’s ultimately makes him what he is. What you would like is for him to toe the line. When he’s able to use his aggression and do so with a high level of efficiency, you get nights like Friday. When he’s able to harness his tenacity, he’s absolutely a pest on defense and an unstoppable all-around machine on offense. When he’s totally in control, you get aggressive but dynamic plays like this. Not a bad way to actually complete the triple-double, right?
Scoring is something that Westbrook can do with the best of them. He possesses one of the deadliest transition elbow jumpers in the league. You can make a case that he is arguably the most ferocious player with the ball in his hands in transition. What makes him truly special is the fact that he can impact the game or make his teammates better even when he’s not scoring. He’s able to create additional opportunities when he crashes the glass (three offensive rebounds against the Wolves). He’s also able to get his teammates involved when he’s facilitating like he was Friday. That kind of play can be contagious, which is what you want. Like Durant, he could easily score 30 on any given night. Instead, Westbrook opts to find other ways to annihilate the opponent.
After the game, Sam Mitchell had a great line about Westbrook, once again calling back a football comparison. The Wolves coach told reporters that Westbrook “is a quarterback with a linebacker’s mentality.” Quarterback, cornerback, linebacker, it doesn’t matter which position you pick, Westbrook is dangerous. There are times where that danger is detrimental to the Thunder. Conversely, there are times like Friday. It may be an undertaking, but you have to take the bad with the good when it comes to Westbrook. You’re rewarded more often than not when you do because he can impact the game in such an incredible way. The Thunder certainly reaped the benefits of the that against the Wolves.
- The Thunder missed their first four shots of the game. The crowd cheered them on in support as they came down the floor for their fifth attempt. There had to be a hidden meaning to the roar from the crowd. Sure, the fans wanted the Thunder to get going, but they also wanted to sit down. When it’s been well over two minutes of game action, those legs have to start getting tired. Forget players running up and down the court. I’d argue that it’s pretty grueling just standing in place for a period of time.
- Dion Waiters continues to baffle me. You would expect Westbrook to be the team’s leading or second-leading scorer. Instead, it was Waiters with his 20 points off the bench. I wish there were more in terms of consistency in his game. Until then, he’s a straight up enigma.
- Seriously, what can be said about Westbrook’s outfit? I’m not really sure. At the very least, Westbrook cut down the time between getting home and changing into his pajamas. If that wasn’t his line of thinking, well …
- Royce did the quick research to piggyback on ESPN’s graphic for Westbrook’s triple-double. Westbrook recorded his 23rd career triple-double in just his 548 career game. Translation: He’s special.
- Did anyone catch Cameron Payne doing the Bernie on the sick drive and dish Westbrook had to Dion Waiters for a corner 3? If not, watch the preview clip on the main page. I’ve got to give the rookie some kudos for that.
- Steven Adams continues to do his thing in terms of scoring efficiently. He finished the game with 12 points on 4-of-7 shooting. He’s now shooting 71.4 percent (30-of-42) in the month of January. That’s a promising sign for the future.
- Various reports indicated that 50 Cent and Evander Holyfield were in attendance for the game. Credit to 50 Cent from taking time away from being in the club to make it to Chesapeake. I want to bring back my question from the previous game against the Wolves but change it now. Who wins in a triple-threat fight: Nikola Pekovic, Adams, or the former heavyweight champion of the world?
Next up: Hosting Miami on Sunday.