The Thunder–well, mainly Russell Westbrook–edged the Phoenix Suns in overtime, 113-110. Westbrook’s stat line (51 points, 13 rebounds, 10 assists, two steals) is only slightly more eye-opening than the 44 shots he took by the time the extra period was over. It wasn’t the most efficient effort–he only made 17 field goals–but it got the job done.
The Thunder and the Suns have a bit of history, and don’t think Russell forgot. An emotional Westbrook appeared to directly taunt the opposing bench after a crucial defensive stop to win the contest, and a few Phoenix players appeared to take exception it:
The Thunder and the Suns next play on December 17th in Oklahoma City. Expect things to get even chippier.
Part and parcel of Westbrook taking 44 shots is the amount of time he spent on the floor: 45 minutes. He’s averaged 41 minutes against two lotto-bound teams, which is highly concerning, if not all that surprising. The Thunder sorely need an aggressive scorer to take some of the load off Westbrook’s shoulder, lest Russell run himself into the ground.
For Westbrook though, fatigue is mental:
”You’ve got to want to win,” he said. ”Very simple. When you want to win, you don’t think about being tired. To me, being tired is a mind thing. It’s in your mind. You’ve got to go out there and compete at a high level and leave it on the floor.”
Yep: Russ is still Russ.
He took an ill-advised (if predictable) three-pointer at the end of regulation, and he knows it was a mistake: ”I should have attacked the first time and be able to get to the paint and try to finish,” Russ said.
Victor Oladipo seems to be on his way to becoming a comfortable second banana: he scored 21 points (7-17 FGs) and tallied five boards and two assists. As advertised, Oladipo played both ways. He also gathered two steals and one block, swatting a eurostepping Devin Booker layup out of bounds:
Oladipo and Westbrook will continue to build chemistry all season, which should help with the flow of the half court offense that has been fairly stagnant through the first two games. Donovan has tried to get the two-man game going between Russ and Victor, using Oladipo’s quickness and agility to cut backdoor off of a screen. This play was a nice example of that:
Expect to see more of two-man game as the season goes on.
Andre Roberson was an absolute force on defense: he had five (!!!) steals and one very clutch block:
Even at this early juncture, Andre Roberson has shown an utter lack of confidence in his shot. He only took four shots against the Suns, but ‘Dre did manage to make one clutch three:
Roberson is clearly still a work in progress on offense, but his perimeter defense is second only to Kawhi Leonard and LeBron James.
The Thunder are still trying to figure out what works with their relatively young and inexperienced lineup. Domantas Sabonis hasn’t been great so far–averaging just seven points and four rebounds per game–so Thunder fans could expect some shakeup in the starting lineup. Perhaps Ersan Ilyasova, a proven and consistent veteran, could see some time with the starting lineup.
The Thunder improve to 2-0 0n the season, while the Suns fall to 0-2.
Next up for OKC: they take on the Lakers at Chesapeake Energy Arena at 6:30 on Sunday.
(Credit to Reddit user Splash2ndCousin for videos, stats courtesy of basketball-reference.com)