By A. Suave Francisco
Bench production has been the remedy for the Thunder's early-season woes and that narrative continued Tuesday night against a desolate Miami Heat squad, riddled with injuries and of course the departure of Dwayne Wade this summer. OKC pushed passed Miami 106-94 in front of a Heat home crowd.
Russell Westbrook finished the game with his 15th triple-double of the season, 29 points, 11 assists, and 17 rebounds. He acquired this triple-double in 25 minutes of playing time, which rivals some of the fastest in NBA history. Also, his 30th in 2016, joins only Oscar Robertson for the most in a calendar year. Inevitably, Westbrook joined another great, Allen Iverson as the only two players to reach 1,000 points this early in the season (32 games).
With Russell tallying 11 assists, that means one or more of his teammates benefitted. This time, there were three that stood out: Steven Adams, Enes Kanter, and Alex Abrines. Between those three, there were 48 points. Kanter finished with 19 points and 8 rebounds, Adams scored 15 while adding 8 rebounds, and Abrines added 14 points on 4-of-7 shooting from three. Not to mention, Jerami Grant's 10 points off the bench.
Teams are beginning to exclusively key in on Westbrook as well as Abrines off the bench, which makes for great spacing and a more open lane for Adams, Kanter, and Grant to thrive in. Miami wanted to play small-ball seemingly the entire game. Billy Donovan noticed that early on and capitalized on it by running more plays through Adams and Kanter, two players that ended up combining for 34 points, and 16 rebounds on 16-of-26 shooting. Miami had no answer.
The Thunder bench continues to step up. Tonight, scoring 48 points.
Adams disrupted Hassan Whiteside's game for the second straight time, this time holding him to 12 points and 8 rebounds on 4-of-11 shooting, significantly shy of his season average of 18.0 points and 14.9 rebounds. OKC has been Whiteside's kryptonite this season dating back to their first game where he finished with 5 points and 12 rebounds on 2-of-8 shooting. He hasn't been a factor and with Miami swiftly declining towards the bottom of the Eastern Conference, he'll be looked at to carry this team. Nights like these won't cut it for that organization. However, Edmond native, Josh Richardson was the player that carried the Heat, denying the Thunder of a blowout win by finishing with a team-high 23 points on 56.3 percent shooting, but that wasn't enough to push his Heat passed Westbrook and the Thunder role players.
With this win, Oklahoma city improves to (20-12) on the season and a game-and-a-half shy of a declining Los Angeles Clippers team for fourth in the Western Conference. The Thunder will travel to Memphis on Thursday to face the (20-14) Grizzlies, who they recently overtook for the fifth spot in the conference.