Russ Chooses A Win Over History, Thunder Beat Grizzlies
By A. Suave Francisco
Wednesday night in Memphis, TN was one full of anticipation with NBA fans and media members anxiously awaiting Russell Westbrook's record-breaking 42nd triple-double of the season. Though Westbrook did indeed fill up the stat book, he fell just one rebound shy of history but in exchange, his team got another hard-fought, 103-100 victory against a Grizzlies team that desperately wanted the Thunder's sixth playoff spot in the Western Conference.
This game clearly wasn't going to be very high scoring; OKC often times struggles to score and Memphis makes it very difficult for any team to score. All things considered, the team played well and more importantly, shot well from three, draining 45.2 percent of their long-range attempts and surprisingly enough, outplayed Memphis defensively down the stretch, then rode the back of Westbrook offensively to pull out the win.
Defensive specialist Andre Roberson didn't play the entire second half due to knee soreness, sothe defense took a slight blow in the third and fourth quarter when Memphis took a few leads. It wasn't until the last five minutes of the game that OKC rebounded from that slump, en route to victory. Seeing the defense recover from a blow like that to eventually win in a tough environment speaks a ton towards their growth this season.
Westbrook played an extreemly efficient game, finishing with 45 points, 10 assists and 9 rebounds on only 25 shots (56 percent shooting). He also stepped up on the defensive end, adding 5 steals to his night, which helped result in the Thunder's 26 fastbreak points, 25 percent of their offense on the night.
Victor Oladipo had a solid night, scoring 15 points while adding 5 assists and 3 rebounds. Enes Kanter and Doug McDermott combined for 20 points and 12 rebounds in 53 minutes off the bench and Taj Gibson added a very meaningful 8 points and 7 rebounds. Although Steven Adams didn't have a great offensive game, once again he matched up well with the Memphis bigs and pulled down 10 rebounds.
Historically, when Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph combine for 43 points and 14 rebounds, the Grizzlies win realatively easily. More interestingly, Tony Allen, the defensive god that isn't known for putting the ball in the basket finished with 14 points and a 40-year-old Vince Carter, still starting for a playoff team, added 10 points. The Thunder overcame an impressive performance by a seasoned, veteran-filled playoff team and won this game, which is a great accomplishment in itself and should be something to look closely at with the playoffs just a week away.
Westbrook will get a chance to make history in Phoenix on Friday, facing the worst team in the conference, the (22-56) Suns. A historic triple-double in Memphis was a tall order, but it shouldn't be as tough a task against a team that seems to be tanking the rest of the NBA season. Westbrook's 45 points also solidifies a 30 point per game average for the regular season, and through all the triple-double talk, he will also be the NBA's scoring leader.
OKC improves to (45-33) on the season and has clinched at least the sixth spot in the West, with an outside chance of overtaking the Los Angeles Clippers who are two games ahead of the Thunder for fifth place.