Too Much Russ For Nuggets As Thunder Stop Losing Streak
By Randy Renner, Senior Writer
When you’re hot you’re hot and Russell Westbrook was a fire the Denver Nuggets could not put out Saturday night in a 121-106 Thunder win.
Westbrook picked up his 17th triple-double (one shy of the 18 he had all last season) with 32 points on 10-for-20 shooting and 7-for-12 from beyond the arc. He also grabbed 17 rebounds (two off his career-high) and handed out 11 assists.
Thunder head coach Billy Donovan called Westbrook’s performance “phenomenal.”
Donovan also liked what he saw from backup point guard Cameron Payne who finally made his season debut after being out since the first week of training camp with a broken bone in his right foot.
“I wanted to get Cameron in during that first substitution and I thought he did a good job.” Donovan said.
Payne finished with eight points on 3-for-4 shooting (2-for-3 on threes), two rebounds and one assist. Donovan was particularly interested in seeing how well fit back in with the second unit.
“You know those guys have really developed their own identity and gelled over the last few weeks so (Cam) has to adjust to adjust to the second unit, not them adjusting to him. He needs to fit in with them first then expand his game.”
Donovan had also hoped to play Semaj Christon but the Nuggets never offered up the opportunity for a three-guard Thunder lineup. Donovan said he “trusts” Christon and doesn’t want to leave him out of games but on this night in particular he wanted to see what Payne could do a little more.
The Thunder had four other players in double figures. Steven Adams had 16 on 7-for-10 shooting and six rebounds. Victor Oladipo scored 15 but struggled with his shot, going 7-for-19 and 0-for-8 from three. Enes Kanter added 14 and six rebounds and Andre Roberson dropped in 13 while pulling down eight rebounds.
Donovan was not very happy with his team’s defense in the first half when the Nuggets shot 48.1 percent and 5-for-10 from beyond the arc. “Denver’s got a really good offense but we could have been better on defense.”
In the second half they were, “yeah I thought we were much better.”
In those last 24 minutes the Thunder clamped down on the Nuggets holding them to just 31.1 percent overall and 28.6 percent (4-for-14) on threes.
The win snaps OKC’s three game losing streak and extends the Nuggets streak to five straight losses.
After spending the last week out on the road the Thunder were happy to be back home at The Peake but they’re not hanging around. It’s off to Chicago on Sunday for a Monday night game against the Bulls then back home a game with Memphis on Wednesday before the Thunder takes off on the team’s longest road trip of the season, six games.
The Thunder will worry about that later, for now it just feels good to get a win.