Final from Phoenix. On to Dallas Sunday night. pic.twitter.com/GhFBA2AE12
— OKC THUNDER (@okcthunder) March 4, 2017
Oklahoma City played its second consecutive road game on the back half of a back-to-back as they faced the Suns in Phoenix tonight. The Thunder started off hot, leading by as many as 12 early, but they allowed the Suns to hit a couple of threes and get to the free throw line to keep it close. Still, Oklahoma City led 28-23 at the end of the 1st Quarter.
With Russell Westbrook and the other starters on the bench, the second unit struggled to get much of anything done, scoring only 4 points in the first 4 minutes of the 2nd quarter. Russ checked in and quickly scored to get things going again, but the defense could not get stops, and things started to get testy as Derrick Jones, Jr. became quite the irritant to Westbrook. Phoenix hit several shots to give them an 8-point lead with under a minute to play in the half, but Westbrook hit a couple of shots to trim the deficit and head into halftime trailing 55-58.
The Thunder came out in the 3rd quarter looking like they were still in the locker room taking a break. Defense was lazy and shots were mistimed or poorly selected. Phoenix started the 2nd half on a 7-0 run, and they maintained a pretty consistent lead as the period ended the Thunder trailing 79-87.
Just a few minutes into the 4th quarter, Phoenix held its largest lead of the night at 14, and then Russell Westbrook checked in to the game. Russ had one of his craziest 4th quarters of the season, which says a lot, as he did everything he could to get the Thunder back into the game. Westbrook’s efforts fell short, however, as Oklahoma City ended the night in Phoenix with a 111-118 loss on their record.
Westbrook’s Big Night Not Enough
For the 4th consecutive game, Russell Westbrook scored at least 40 points, making him the first player to do it since Kobe Bryant in the 2011-12 NBA season and only the 9th player in NBA history to do so. Unfortunately, his efforts were not enough for the Thunder to walk out of Phoenix with a win.
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) March 4, 2017
Westbrook finished the game with 48 points while shooting 14/30 (46.7%) from the field, including 3/12 (25%) from three, and 17/18 (94.4%) from the free throw line to go along with 17 rebounds, 9 assists, and 3 steals. In the 4th quarter alone, Westbrook had 20 points, 9 rebounds, and 2 assists.
Russell Westbrook: can't stop, won't stop pic.twitter.com/snORrG0dT2
— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) March 4, 2017
Russ did everything he possibly could to get the Thunder the lead, but unfortunately, Oklahoma City could not get stops on the defensive side of the ball. With Westbrook on the floor for 38 minutes, the Thunder was +10 over the Suns, but with him sitting for 10 minutes, Oklahoma City was -17. The second unit has to figure out a way to carry their weight on a consistent basis, because Westbrook simply cannot carry the Thunder to a win every single night.
The Oklahoma City Thunder now head to Dallas where they will play the Mavericks on Sunday for the second of 4 matchups between the 2 teams this season. The Thunder won the first meeting a little over a month ago at home, but the Mavericks are 13-9 since January 12th, a rather impressive stretch of basketball for them as they currently sit with a record of 24-36. Tip-off is set for 7:30 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.