By Randy Renner
The much anticipated return of Thunder superstar Kevin Durant was worth the wait but the reunion of Thunder buddies Durant and Russell Westbrook lasted just seconds short of a half, the Thunder defense locked things down for only about five minutes and Anthony Morrow hit just one shot, but oh what a shot.
By the end of one of the wildest games you'll ever see the Thunder found a way and beat the stubborn Phoenix Suns 137-134 at soldout Chesapeake Energy Arena.
Durant finished the night with 44 points on 13-for-23 shooting overall (6-for-11 on threes), 10 rebounds and seven assists. According to the Elias Sports Bureau it's the first time in NBA history someone has scored that many points in their first game back after being out for at least five games. Durant had missed six and a half with a sprained ankle.
Westbrook finished his night early, getting ejected with just a couple of ticks left on the first half clock when he picked up his second technical in the span of 20 seconds. He scored 20 points on 5-for-13 shooting (9-for-10 on free throws), four rebounds and four assists.
Westbrook's pair of Ts were part of seven handed out by the officiating crew led by James Capers. Both teams were chippy and the game was very physical, especially in the first half when players on both sides constantly barked at each other.
Westbrook's second technical, which seemed to come as he strutted after making a power move to the basket, making his shot and then drawing a foul. It's something we've seen from him several times a game but last night at that point in time with tempers flaring it was enough to get another technical and players are automatically ejected when that happens.
The officials declined to comment about the call after the game and Westbrook basically did too though he was asked by Thunder PR officials to wait around in the lockerroom to answer reporters questions. That exercise was a waste of time as Russ answered every question with, "that was a great win for us."
Seriously. Maybe he didn't want to get fined any more than what would be coming from the league from his technicals or maybe he was just in a mood. Who knows.
The Thunder defense was a no show most of the night, giving up a season-high 128 points in regulation on a season opponent high 57.1 percent shooting.
"They shot the lights out," is how Thunder head coach Scott Brooks put it after the game. But when it counted the most, in overtime, the Suns could hit just two of the 13 shots they put up (15.4 percent) and that one shot Morrow hit? It came in overtime, a huge 3-pointer off a great feed from Durant and Morrow was fouled on the shot and then made his free throw to give OKC a four point lead and just enough breathing room.
The Thunder also set a franchise record with 44 made free throws (on 49 attempts, 89.8 percent). Westbrook and Durant combined to go 21-for-22 at the stripe.
The Thunder are taking New Year's Day off and then will be back at it Friday night, hosting the hot Washington Wizards and All-Star point guard John Wall.
With their record now at 16-17 the Thunder will again have a chance to get to .500 for the first time this season if they can beat Washington.