An exultant Russell Westbrook hammered his chest after delivering a zealous one-handed slam to punctuate the Oklahoma City Thunder's 116-105 victory over the visiting New York Knicks.
Though Westbrook netted triple-double #27 of his season, (38 points, 14 rebs, 12 ast) Oklahoma City’s fate appeared bleak until a 30-13 second-quarter run revived the apprehensive squad’s competitive mettle.
Amid a cracked beginning from its stumbling franchise, much of Thunder Nation felt as though their team’s recent misfortune had carried into the evening’s pre-All Star break finale.
Behind Carmelo Anthony’s 19-point opening frame, New York reduced Chesapeake Energy Arena to a stilled hush.
However, bounding with conviction through the remaining three quarters, gritty OKC outscored New York 89-66 to steal an important come-from-behind victory.
When needed most, the Thunder delivered from deep, making 12-of-23 three-point attempts. OKC also took the Knicks to task on the glass (48-39) and in transition (25-8).
Meanwhile, Victor Oladipo (21 points), Andre Roberson (10), and Steven Adams (11) provided a solid base for Westbrook’s heroics to ensure victory. The Thunder bench, led by Jerami Grant (13) contributed heavily as well by outscoring New York’s reserves 30-15.
Carmelo Anthony (30 points) led his Knicks (23-34) in scoring. Also, Derrick Rose (25) and Courtney Lee (16) performed well in New York’s fourth loss in five contests.
Ultimately though, Oklahoma City’s decisive second-quarter run delivered a staunch body blow from which the Knicks were unable to recover.
With the win, Oklahoma City improves to 32-25 at the All-Star break.
- Team fortitude: The Thunder appeared dead to rights before resolving to eschew defeat against an easily discouraged Knicks iteration. OKC showcased the quality that separates a playoff team from one which is lottery-bound by causing New York to wilt following its first strong run of the night.
- Three-point shooting: Normally, I do not advocate OKC’s reliance on the deep ball. However, it fell tonight. When OKC is shooting well from the perimeter, they become a dangerous group.
- Westbrook triple-double: The Thunder is 21-6 when Westy hits triple twin figures.
- Thunder bench: The bench mob stepped up tonight. Especially impressive were the performances of Lauvergne (9 points) and Grant.
- Andre Roberson’s defense: After a slow start, Mr. “Low-Key MVP” helped hold Anthony to just 4-of-12 FGM and -20 +/-.
- Dismal first quarter performance: Against a bad New York team Oklahoma City can get by with an errant quarter. However, this is unacceptable when OKC faces a playoff or elite team.
- Cameron Payne: 0-6 shooting, -5 +/-.
- Free throw shooting: 22-of-31 is not a good performance from the charity stripe.
Star (s) of the Show
- Russell Westbrook/Victor Oladipo: The explosive duo combined for 59 points, six made threes, and 22-39 FGM. Further, OKC’s dynamic starting back-court each played a team-high 37 minutes while offering Thunder-best +/- ratings: +26 Oladipo, +13 Westbrook.
Tonight represented somewhat of a pivotal win vs. a defensively-hollow Knicks team.
Now, Domas Sabonis (BBVA Rising Stars), Alex Abrines (BBVA Rising Stars), and Russell Westbrook (reigning All-Star MVP) can represent Oklahoma City Thunder basketball with extra pride during this weekend’s All-Star festivities.