There are games that, even in early January, are squarely in the ‘must-win’ category. Not that the Denver Nuggets were a tough opponent by any means, but dropping a home game to them in the middle of the Thunder’s buzzsaw January road trip would have been disastrous; Westbrook and company needed to take care of business, and handily.
And that they did with a 121-106 victory over the Nuggets. Russell Westbrook attained his 17th triple-double of the season, pouring in 32 points, 17 rebounds, and 11 assists on the night. Westbrook, a below-average three point shooter, made seven of this 12 attempts from deep after hitting a career high of eight against the Rockets the game prior. He’s been binging from the three point line lately, averaging over 12 attempts from deep per game.
Westbrook was his typical coy self when asked about what he’s changed, if anything:
“Just just trying to stay on balance, concentrate on making the shot,” Westbrook said after the game.
When Westbrook is hitting threes, the defender also must account for that as well as everything else in his arsenal–driving to the rim, pulling up for the mid-range shooter, dancing around screens, dishing the ball to the open man. He simply can’t be defended when he’s hitting threes.
”Obviously, Russ started hitting pull-up 3s from 30 feet, and there’s not a lot you can do with that,” Denver coach Michael Malone said.
Clearly, defending the Westbrook three-ball is not in teams’ gameplans; they often allow him the shot and live with the consequences. For the Nuggets, it was disastrous.
Steven Adams and Victor Oladipo were OKC’s next leading scorer, tallying 16 and 15 points respectively. Adams also contributed four blocks on the night.
Cameron Payne made his return after missing almost half of the season with a broken foot. Payne looked confident, assertive, and aggressive for his first game back: he scored eight points, grabbed two rebounds, and dished one assist in just 13 minutes of play.
For the Nuggets, Wilson Chandler led the scoring charge from the bench. Chandler had 24 points, seven rebounds, two assists, and two blocks. Will Barton scored 21 points and grabbed seven rebounds.
The Nuggets are free-falling as of late, having lost their last five games.
The Thunder improve to 22-16, while the Nuggets fall to 14-23. Next up for OKC: they take on the Bulls in Chicago tomorrow night.