Oscar Says Russ Is The "M-V-P"
By Randy Renner, Senior Writer
At the end of what was a beautiful and thrilling pregame ceremony honoring both Russell Westbrook and Oscar Robertson the “Big O” left no doubt as to what he thinks about the NBA’s MVP race.
“I just wanna say one more thing…” he told an already cheering crowd. “M-V-P!”
18,203 of the Hall of Famer’s new Oklahoma friends picked the chant without missing a beat.
The media voting for the MVP trophy ends this week but the winner won’t be announced until late June in a nationally televised special. So it will be a while before Thunder fans know if their chants have reverberated around the league’s press corps enough to boost Westbrook ahead of James Harden.
On this night OKC fans were content to chant their opinion, show their appreciation to Westbrook and sit back and see if the Thunder backups could beat the Nuggets backups.
Denver was missing six players either because of injury or rest but the Nuggets won anyway, 111-105, coming from behind once the Thunder regulars kept their seats on the bench in the second half.
Westbrook played just 18 minutes and for the first time in more than 100 games failed to score in double digits, finishing with five points, five rebounds and eight assists.
Every Thunder player in uniform played and scored. Taj Gibson and Jerami Grant each had 13, Gibson added seven rebounds.
Enes Kanter had 12, Alex Abrines dropped in 11 and hit three 3s giving him the Thunder rookie record for 3-pointers in a season with 94. James Harden had 93 in his rookie season and remember the draft pick the Thunder used to take Abrines was one of those the Houston Rockets sent to OKC in the Harden trade.
Victor Oladipo finished with 10 points on 4-for-9 shooting.
The Thunder led by as many as 15 in the first half but slowly let the Nugs back in the game.
In the first half OKC shot 49.1 percent overall and 50 percent (7-for-14) on threes while holding Denver to 42.6 percent overall and 3-for-11 (27.3 percent on threes.
In the second half all that flipped upside down and down the drain with OKC shooting 34.8 percent overall and an almost invisible 9.1 percent (1-for-11) on threes while the Nuggets hit right at half their shots.
But again this game, or the final score at least, really didn’t mean anything. The Thunder played pretty well while the main guys were in there.
Now the real test begins.
The Thunder will have a couple of days to practice then will fly to Houston on Saturday and will open their playoff series with the Rockets on Sunday night at 8 on TNT.
Billy Donovan held out both Doug McDermott and Andre Roberson but both are expected to be ready to go for Sunday’s game.
Roberson and his defense are critical to the Thunder’s hopes of keeping Harden somewhat in check.
If they can do that, they’ll have a chance.