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Oklahoma City Thunder: Three keys in win vs. Denver Nuggets and player grades

Russell Westbrook’s triple-double performance helped OKC scale the mile-high mountaintop

NBA: Oklahoma City Thunder at Denver Nuggets
Russell Westbrook led a late rally for an OKC victory
Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Russell Westbrook’s preternatural talents lay dormant for the first 36 minutes of Oklahoma City’s unforgettable rendezvous with Denver. Then, when needed most, amazing happened.

In what has become a recurring motif throughout Westbrook’s 16-17’ campaign, on Friday night, “amazing” assumed the form of a prodigious 24-point eruption in the final 17 minutes of OKC’s 132-129 overtime triumph.

Overall, the 28-year-old converted just 9-of-25 FGA. However, with his team mired in a late deficit, Westbrook offered a near peerless performance.

Trailing by as many as 13 in the fourth, Russell Westbrook refused defeat by amassing 19 points (4-5 FGA, 7-7 FTA, 2-2 3FG) four rebounds, and three of his NBA season-high 18 assists to command an extra frame.

In the bonus session, Westbrook’s incomparable force of will superseded an unsightly 0-6 shooting slump. All told, the all-around virtuoso claimed five of his team’s ten OT points from the foul line to secure the critical victory.

2) Overtime Defense

With the contest’s outcome precariously floating overhead, a gritty Thunder defense seized momentum by limiting Denver to 3-of-10 FGM, and 0-5 3PM. The second number is a marked improvement over the Nuggets’ regulation 12-of-29 3PM clip. Oklahoma City settled into good defensive habits at just the right time.

3) Overtime Rebounding

Following a poor rebounding effort through four quarters -11 (42-31), the Thunder triumphed on the glass in overtime (9-8). In addition to Westbrook’s productivity (3 rebounds), Steven Adams secured three of his five total rebounds in the deciding stanza.

Summary

In summary, sans Westbrook’s imaginative efforts, the Thunder could not have created an environment to wrest a road-win from Denver’s tenuous grip. All the same, if not for OKC’s urgent return to perimeter defense and rebounding, even Westbrook’s supreme performance would have been for naught.

Moving forward, it behooves the Thunder to commit an unyielding 48-minute adherence to sound basketball principles, with an attentive focus paid to defense and rebounding.

Player Grades

  • Russell Westbrook: A+
  • Victor Oladipo: A
  • Domantas Sabonis: B+
  • Andre Roberson: B
  • Enes Kanter: B-
  • Steven Adams: B-
  • Joffrey Lauvergene: C+
  • Anthony Morrow: C+
  • Jerami Grant: C+

WTLC Gameball:

  • Russell Westbrook
  • Sixth triple-double of the season with 36 points, 18 assists, 12 rebounds
  • +10 plus/minus
  • Team-high NetRTG -plus 17.6
  • 24 points in fourth quarter and overtime

Oklahoma City and the steamrolling Russell Westbrook will look to parlay this momentum in tonight’s home contest vs. Detroit.