Westbrook Sets Assist Record As Thunder Roll Past Suns
By Randy Renner, Senior Writer
Oklahoma City may be on it’s way to setting a new record for cold weather by sunup tomorrow but at sundown tonight Russell Westbrook was as hot as he’s ever been.
He controlled OKC’s 114-101 win over Phoenix every way possible on the way to his 13th triple-double of the season and a new franchise record for assists with 22.
Westbrook also had 26 points on 9-for-17 shooting and 11 rebounds.
“We did a lot of positive things tonight and a lot of that had to do with Russell,” said head coach Billy Donovan. “He was efficient in every aspect. Totally focused and locked in. He’s not gonna be perfect every night, none of us are, but he’s always trying to get better.”
The Thunder hit key shots early and stifled what can be a potent Phoenix offense holding the Suns to 33.3 percent shooting in the 1st quarter and 36.4 percent in the 2nd. The Suns managed just 39 points in the first half.
“Our defense in the first half was really good,” Donovan said. “That was a big difference in this game and they were a hard team to guard.”
Devin Booker was especially difficult, scoring a game high 31 on 11-for-22 shooting overall and 3-for-5 on threes but no one else in Suns lineup did much to hurt OKC.
Another big aspect of the Thunder’s defense was not allowing the Suns to get out on the fast break, not just limiting them, not allowing to the run at all. Phoenix had just one fast break opportunity and didn’t score. For a team that loves to run as much as the Suns holding them to 0 fast break points is as good as it gets.
“We didn’t turn it over at a high rate, like we did last time so that didn’t allow them to run much,” Donovan said.
Steven Adams had the pick-and-roll working early with Westbrook and finished with 19 points, seven rebounds and a couple of steals. Enes Kanter added 12 and both Anthony Morrow and Andre Roberson finished with 11.
Morrow started in place of the injured Victor Oladipo who missed his third full game with a sprained right wrist that he injured in the 1st quarter of the Celtics game last Sunday.
Donovan was asked about Oladipo’s progress before the game and he said “he’s better today than yesterday but his wrist is still really sore.” Asked when Oladipo might be able to return Donovan said “we don’t know.”
These first few games without Oladipo the Thunder have struggled at both ends of the floor but especially on defense, tonight not so much. The offense was sharp too with the Thunder shooting 50.6 percent overall and 43.8 percent (7-for-16) on threes.
The Thunder are back at it Monday evening hosting the Atlanta Hawks before a mid-week road trip to New Orleans and Boston.