In a game where Russell Westbrook set a career high in assists, achieved another triple-double, and his team notched a 114-101 victory, the preceding accomplishments took a backseat to one play. It had no bearing on the game’s outcome, but it did nearly break the internet:
The Shammgod. It’s hard to see just what happened even on multiple repeated viewings, so you can imagine how confused Tyler Ulis felt on the business end of the Westbrook move.
Russ drives hard to the far-left side of the paint, which for most, would preclude a dribble move that could take one’s body all the way across the key. Then he does just that, violently bringing the ball to the right with his opposite hand, and Ulis is left in the lurch. Marquese Chriss comes up to help (and prevent a Westbrook dunk), and Russ savvily dumps it off to Steven Adams, who puts an exclamation point on the play.
Most don’t attempt (or pull off, for that matter) next-to-impossible dribble moves at high speed, but Russ isn’t most players.
Westbrook finished the night with 26 points, 11 rebounds, and 22 assists.
After two straight losses, OKC needed a bounce back game, and they got it. It was arguably the Thunder’s best wire-to-wire performance this season; after a 30-20 start, the Thunder never let their lead dip below eight points.
It was a dominant performance by the Thunder on both ends of the ball. Although they allowed Devin Booker 31 points, only three other Suns players managed to score in double digits. Perimeter defense has, at times, been an issue for the Thunder. The Suns are heavy on guards who can shoot, but the Thunder held them to just 43.3% shooting on the night, allowing the Suns to make just eight of their 22 shots.
“When we defend we put ourselves in position to win games. That has to be our identity,” Westbrook added. “When we defend at a high level we usually have a good chance of winning the game.”
OKC’s offense has been relatively anemic in Victor Oladipo’s absence, but key offensive contributions from Steven Adams, Andre Roberson, Enes Kanter, and Anthony Morrow helped cover that up. The four combined for for 53 points on 19-33 shooting. Russell Westbrook’s incredible night drew the lion’s share of attention, but the efficient contribution of his teammates was equally vital in OKC’s victory.
The Thunder improve to 16-11, while the Suns fall to 8-19. The Thunder sit at no. 7 in the Western Conference standings, one game behind the Utah Jazz.
The Thunder host the Atlanta Hawks tomorrow night at 7 P.M.