The last time Russell Westbrook visited Memphis, he took 13 shots. And didn’t make a single one. He called it the worst game of his career and left the arena with a firestorm following him back to Oklahoma City.
This time around, there was none of that. Westbrook made his first four shots and 12 of 20 after that for a game-high 30 points to go with six rebounds and four assists leading the Thunder to a 100-95 win over the Grizzlies.
Westbrook had his jumper going, was getting to the rim and played pretty much under control the entire game, save one little spurt in the third quarter. (Out of nowhere, Westbrook chucked a 30-foot 3-pointer with 11 on the shot clock for no reason. After that he took two other dumb shots but then got it back under control. It’s like he has to have those little outbursts just to get them out of his system.)
But you saw the Westbrook tonight that won a lot of games for the Thunder last season. He hit tough, contested pull-up jumpers in critical situations. He made good decisions, finished open looks and really took control of the game offensively when in reality, the Thunder offense kind of stunk.
There are nights where Westbrook doesn’t have it going and these shots all look stupid. Those nights where he’s 5-16 from the floor and is coming up short on jumpers and forcing shots in the paint. But you have to live with those nights to get this. It’s a trade-off and if Westbrook can get back to last season’s consistent form, you won’t have to make that trade very often.
The rest of the Thunder did their jobs well around Westbrook too. Perk had 13 rebounds. KD struggled shooting a bit but had 22 points, 11 rebounds and five assists. Nick Collison was terrific off the bench. James Harden was only 2-8 for 10 points but had two big assists late in the game. It was a game that featured a lot of little things around a big performance from Westbrook.
It was in doubt for most of the fourth though, despite the Grizzlies missing Zach Randolph. The Thunder win a lot in Memphis. But it is never, ever easy. Memphis could be missing Rudy Gay, Z-Bo, Marc Gasol and Mike Conley and instead be playing with two ballboys, a cheerleader and their super annoying PA guy and the game would still come down to the final two minutes. For whatever reason, that’s just the way it is for OKC in Memphis. But the Thunder tend to win, which is what’s important.
- Big important stat: No turnovers for the Thunder in the fourth quarter. They had 15 through the first 36 minutes but took care of the ball late.
- I don’t know what’s going on with Thabo and this 3-point shooting, but it’s one of the best things so far this season. He went 3-3 from deep in this one which makes him 5 for his last 5.
- Question: Could it be a reality that the Thunder are a better, more dangerous team with Westbrook assisting less and with Durant scoring less and distributing more? Where Westbrook’s assists have lacked, Durant and Harden have made up for them. It’s too early to really tell, but there is something about a team that has more than just one distributor. It makes all five guys on the floor a weapon.
- I think when Marc Gasol goes to get a haircut he says, “Give me something that makes it look like I just woke up from a long nap.”
- KD’s averages over the last two games: 21.5 ppg, 10.5 rpg and 6.5 apg.
- Perk picked up his fourth technical of the year, but Westbrook also got one. I believe that’s the first non-Perk technical on a Thunder player this year.
- Reggie Jackson wasn’t near as good in this game. He played just 10 minutes and had four points on 1-4 shooting and made a few poor decisions. It’s going to happen.
- Both teams stayed small pretty much the entire fourth quarter. Rudy Gay played the 4 for Memphis with KD there for OKC. Obviously the Grizzlies would’ve never done that with Marc Gasol, but it was where they are right now. And it certainly favored the Thunder.
- KD is 18-18 from the line the last two games.
- Daequan Cook has gone from having glasses on to wearing earplugs on the bench. It was probably for the headaches but I bet part of it was so he didn’t have to hear the Grizzlies awful PA guy.
- Thunder passing ability power rankings: 1) Harden 2) Maynor 3) Collison 4) Westbrook 5) Durant. That’s a weird hierarchy, I agree, but Nick Collison is truly a terrific passer.
- Harden ran point a little the last couple possessions. With Westbrook flowing really well off the ball, it was wise to let Harden create. I’d love to see more of that.
- Serge Ibaka has had 24 straight games with a block and Perk is at 11.
- Brian Davis Line of the Night: “Perkins looks like he saw the last biscuit at breakfast in a boarding house.”
Next up: At New Orleans Wednesday.