By Randy Renner, Senior Writer
Russell Westbrook lived up to his superstar status Friday night with a superhuman effort in the 4th quarter leading the Thunder to a thrilling 114-102 win over Memphis before a raucous sellout crowd inside Chesapeake Energy Arena.
Westbrook scored 19 of his game-high 38 points in the last quarter on 4-for-6 shooting overall, 2-for-2 on threes and he hit nine pressure packed free throws.
“Russell’s stats are incredible, all the triple-doubles, but it’s his constant awareness of what’s going on in the game that maybe people don’t see. His awareness of what’s going on with us and what’s going on with the other team,” said head coach Billy Donovan.
Westbrook finished with 38 points on 8-for-20 shooting overall but he splashed five of his seven 3-pointers and made all 17 of his free throws. He also pulled down 13 rebounds and handed out 12 assists for his 25th triple-double of the season.
OKC iced away the win with a dominating 21-4 run over the last 4:40 of the contest and from the 2:35 mark, with the Thunder down by one, Westbrook put the team on his back and kept the Grizzlies at bay with a personal 13-0 run to close the game.
“Russell was really efficient tonight with the way he controlled things,” Donovan said. “His leadership was really, really good tonight.”
And make no mistake this was a game the Thunder really needed to win to try to wash out the taste of three straight losses and especially the embarrassing blowout loss Wednesday to the Bulls when it seemed as if the Thunder couldn’t do anything right.
“I give our guys a lot of credit for the way they responded,” Donovan said.
The Thunder bench, especially, responded. That group has been trying to find its way ever since Enes Kanter broke his arm. Friday night the bench scored 45 points on 16-for-24 shooting.
Joffrey Lauvergne scored a season-high 16 points and hit three 3s, Anthony Morrow dropped in 15 and also nailed three 3s and Cameron Payne played probably his best game since returning from his injury with nine points on 4-for-7 shooting and some solid defense.
The Thunder hit 13 threes and that opened up things inside where Westbrook, when he wasn’t hitting one of those long balls himself, was driving into the lane and drawing contact leading to those 17 free throws.
Grizz coach David Fizdale called Thunder center Steven Adams a “beast” in his pregame chat with reporters and Adams responded with a monster game, scoring 16 points and hauling in 13 rebounds.
After three disappointing games the Thunder came up with a strong effort to knock off a Grizzlies team that had won three straight coming in.
“I thought our effort was great tonight,” Donovan said. “Our guys really put it out there tonight.”
Even Nick Collison, the “old man” of the squad went diving for a loose basketball late in the game and came up with a bloodied face that required stitches.
It was one of the more obvious examples of how hard the Thunder played and how determined they were to win.
“Nick was great tonight,” said his coach. “I have respect and appreciation for his ability to just keep himself ready all the time.”
The Portland Trail Blazers are up next in a special Super Bowl Sunday matinee. Tipoff is set for 2 o’clock