Riding a 3-game losing streak, the Thunder entered tonight in desperate need for a win, while the Grizzlies came in winning their last 3 while playing some of their best basketball of the season. Oklahoma City started off struggling by turning the ball over 8 times in the first quarter and trailing 21-23. The second quarter was a different story as the Thunder outscored Memphis by 12 and took a 58-48 lead into halftime. The third quarter looked like Oklahoma City was going to have another meltdown as they turned the ball over 8 times again and finished the period trailing 80-82. The Grizzlies started the 4th quarter by extending their lead to 6 right as Russell Westbrook checked back in. That was as many points as Memphis would lead by, though, as Westbrook took complete control of the game by putting on a show and leading the Thunder to a 114-112 victory.
Wild Wild Westbrook
Recent MVP talk around the NBA has had Russell Westbrook dropping out of the race with other players like James Harden and Kevin Durant surging to the top of the leaderboard. Tonight’s game will likely get the attention of basketball fans everywhere as Westbrook had one of his best games of the season, not just because of his overall stats, but because of his incredible play in the clutch.
Russell Westbrook recorded his 25th triple-double of the season and 62nd of his career as he scored 38 points on 8/20 (40%) from the field, 5/7 (71.4%) from three, and 17/17 (100%) from the free throw line to go along with 12 assists and 13 rebounds. The most impressive part of Westbrook’s game was how clutch he played down the stretch. He shot 4/6 from the field, including 2/2 from 3, and 8/8 from the free throw line in the fourth quarter, which included him scoring the Thunder’s final 15 points in the last 2:35 of the game.
The Lone Stache Bro Holds It Down
Steven Adams has struggled in the last few games, which has absolutely killed the Thunder with no Enes Kanter coming off the bench due to injury. That was not the case tonight as Adams went to head-to-head with some of the most physical big men in the league in Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph.
Steven Adams played a season-high 44 minutes, which is especially impressive when you take into consideration that Russell Westbrook has not eclipsed the 40-minute mark even once this season. In his time on the court, Adams scored 16 points on 7/13 (53.8%) from the field and 2/6 (33.3%) from the free throw line while grabbing 13 rebounds, his 2nd-most of the season. Hopefully he will be able to keep up some consistent production with Kanter out as Russ needs all the help he can get to keep the Thunder winning games.
Bench Goes Bonkers
With the absence of Enes Kanter, Oklahoma City has struggled to find scoring off the bench, and it has ultimately cost them deeply. Tonight, however, several players stepped up and the bench as a whole did a good job at keeping the game within reach until Russell Westbrook and Steven Adams could come in and take over.
Despite inconsistent production lately, the bench scored 45 points tonight, led by Joffrey Lauvergne who put up a season-high 16 points on 6/7 (85.7%) from the field, including 3/4 (75%) from three, while grabbing 8 rebounds. Anthony Morrow also had a breakout game after struggling for quite some time as he poured in 15 points on 5/7 (71.4%) from the floor, including 3/4 (75%) from three. Cameron Payne also tied his season-high in scoring with 9 points on 4/7 (57.1%) shooting.
The second unit for the Thunder will need to find some type of consistent production until Enes Kanter can return, and if tonight is any indicator of what is possible moving forward, they should be just fine.
Super Bowl Sunday
Just a few hours before kickoff for the Super Bowl, the Thunder will host the Portland Trailblazers on Sunday. Portland has been hot lately, and this is an important matchup for the Thunder in their race to win the Northwest Division and climb higher in the Western Conference. Tip-off is set for 2 PM, and the game will be televised on FSOK. It will also be broadcast on the radio at WWLS 98.1 FM.
Article written by Zack Low. Follow @TheThunderGuys on Twitter and Instagram.