Westbrook Roars Back To Lead Thunder Past Knicks
By Randy Renner
Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook made up for lost time as he roared back off the injury list, scoring 32 points to lead the Thunder past the New York Knicks 105-78 inside Chesapeake Energy Arena.
Westbrook scored those 32 points in just 24 minutes, he didn't play at all in the fourth quarter with the game well in hand. He also had eight assists and seven rebounds and had the game been closer he would have surely had a triple-double.
"Russell's speed affects the game and he has the ability to raise the play of his teammates," said Thunder head coach Scott Brooks after the game.
Westbrook got his teammates involved early, setting up center Steven Adams for a slam off a pick-and-roll on the game's first play. Westbrook assisted on the next two Thunder buckets also and had a slam himself and finished the first quarter with 14 points, more than the entire Knicks roster, who trailed 30-13 at the quarter break.
"I just tried to go out and help my team," Westbrook said. "For us it's key to play at a higher pace, we gotta play every game now like it's our last."
The Thunder are trying to dig themselves out of a 3-12 hole they dug through the first 15 games of the season. They're starting the long climb back now, having won two straight to get to 5-12.
"I was really excited tonight, hearing my name called in the starting lineup, you never wanna take that for granted."
Westbrook sprinted out onto the court when his name was announced and the sellout crowd at The Peake gave him a rousing standing ovation.
"The crowd was amazing," he said, "best crowd in all of sports."
Serge Ibaka had 14 points and six rebounds, Jeremy Lamb came off the bench to score 13 on 3-for-5 shooting and Reggie Jackson added 10 points, six rebounds and four assists.
Adams had a big night on the boards with a career-high 13 rebounds to go along with six points.
The Thunder dominated from the start, never trailing and leading by as many as 37 points.
"The defense at the start gave us the opportunity to play at the pace we wanted," Brooks said.
That defense held the Knicks to just 14.3 percent shooting in the first 15 minutes of the contest. New York ended up hitting 38.7 percent, well off their season average of 45.9 percent and the Knicks hit just two of their 19 threes for a miniscule 10.5 percent. They had come in as the NBA's best 3-point shooting team (40.5 percent).
"They're a good defensive team," said Knicks coach and former Thunder guard Derek Fisher. "They have athleticism at each position and they do a good job guarding the ball."
It didn't help that the Knicks were without their best player. Carmelo Anthony missed the game because of ongoing back spasms.
Of course when it comes to injured superstars the Knicks will get no sympathy from the Thunder who are still without Kevin Durant.
But half the Dynamic Duo is back and on this night half turned out to be plenty.