For as surly as he can be with the media, there’s no doubt about it: Russell Westbrook has a lot of fun playing basketball. He was clearly enjoying himself on Christmas day, gashing the Timberwolves to the tune of 31 points, seven rebounds, 15 assists, and one emphatic courtside high-five to a lucky fan. 10 of those assists came in the second half. Westbrook’s phenomenal performance led the Thunder to their third straight win and their fourth out of the last five games.
“I just go out and have fun. I don’t know if it’s the most fun I’ve had, but it’s definitely at the top. Just because the group of guys we have. Everybody’s so unselfish, everybody is willing to do great things, everybody’s willing to get better. We’re young and blessed to be able to play this game, and you can’t do nothing but have fun.”
With his 15 assists, Westbrook helped his teammates get in on the fun too: Steven Adams and Enes Kanter had 22 and 2o points respectively, shooting a combined 17-22. The Thunder shot 51.2% on the night.
It was a relatively close game until the fourth quarter, where the Thunder’s horses were simply too much for the ‘Wolves to handle. A large part of that was the bench: OKC nearly double up Minnesota in bench points, 50-26.
A bigger part of pulling away? You guessed it: Russell Westbrook.
“‘He’s the MVP leader right now, so you’ve got to try and slow him down,” Minnesota coach Tom Thibodeau said. ”He draws so much attention–you know we’ve got to watch out for him. We’ve just got to stay solid and keep our assignments. We broke down a little in the second half.”
It’s been a rough go for Thibodeau’s squad in the early going–a team some tapped as a potential 8th seed is now 9-21–but it’s not for lack of talent. It was simply a matter of Westbrook being too much to handle. Karl-Anthony Towns led the way with 26 points and eight boards. Andrew Wiggins poured in 23 points but shot just 3-8 from the free throw line.
The Thunder improve to 19-12, while the Timberwolves fall to 9-21. Next up for OKC: they travel to Miami to take on the Heat. Tipoff is tomorrow night at 6:30.