By Randy Renner
Thunder superstar point guard Russell Westbrook notched his fourth triple-double of the season and 23rd of his career Friday night and the Thunder turned defensive stops into offensive dunks in blowing out the Minnesota Timberwolves 113-93.
Westbrook didn’t play in the fourth quarter but still finished with 12 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists and that 10th one was a doozy.
Center Steven Adams went up and blocked a Shabazz Muhammad dunk attempt late in the third quarter, the ball bounced out to Westbrook who raced back the other way quickly spotting Andre Roberson out in front of the pack. Westbrook then launched a perfect half-court pass to Roberson who leaped, gathered it in and slammed it home giving Westbrook’s triple-double an exclamation point and the Thunder a 75-54 lead.
“Russell is a quarterback with a linebacker's mentality," Minnesota interim coach Sam Mitchell said. "You can count on your hand the guys in this league with that mentality. He is just a rare, unique individual and as a coach, you have to respect him, because he leaves everything on the floor every single night."
"Dre did a good job of running the floor," Westbrook said. "I'm just glad I was close on target. He did a good job of catching it and finishing."
It was one of the many “wow” moments the Thunder’s dynamic floor leader tends to produce.
“Wow like I hope it doesn’t go outta bounds you mean?” Billy Donovan cracked after the game “or wow I hope he catches it?”
Donovan then gave everyone a big smile. The Thunder head coach has constantly talked about how impressed he’s been with Westbrook from his shear physical ability, to his basketball IQ, to his determination.
All of it was on display at The Peake.
“That was an amazing catch and pass,” said Westbrook’s superstar teammate Kevin Durant, who had a nice night himself with 21 points, six rebounds and seven assists. “It was like a quarterback throwing to a wide receiver. Dre went up there and got it, that kind of sealed the game for us. That was a punch in the gut for them.”
Of course in recent games the Thunder have landed those types of punches only to have an opponent get up and get back in the game. This time though, with former world heavyweight boxing champion Evander Holyfield watching from front-row courtside seats, the Thunder made sure they’d landed a knockout blow by continuing to play solid defense instead of relaxing and letting up.
“We were getting out in transition with our defense getting stops,” Roberson said. “That’s what we’re looking for our defense leading to offense.”
When that happens the Thunder can be difficult to beat and when the bench gets things going like it did Friday night the Thunder are almost impossible to beat, 27-2 now according to media notes sent out by the Thunder when the bench scores 29 or more points. The reserves had 47 against Minnesota.
"Our guys did a great job tonight offensively and defensively," Donovan said. "We had a high number assists and a low number of turnovers. Defensively, for the majority of the game, we played very well. We did a good job of attacking the paint on offense."
OKC finished with 31 assists and a season-low six turnovers. The Thunder dominated inside with 72 paint points.
The defense got off to a great start forcing Minnesota into an 0-for-10 start.
"They know that it's going to be tough to score. We did a good job all game of making them shoot over hands," Durant said. "We played good defense, we kept them out of transition and we didn't turn the ball over."
"It just sets the tone and we make sure that it's a hard grind to get back into the game within the score differential," Adams echoed. "We came out with the right energy and the right mindset."
And they kept it going that way all night.