The Oklahoma City Thunder came into tonight’s road matchup with the Phoenix Suns on a two-game losing streak and also without the services of Paul George and Alex Abrines. The Thunder were down two core pieces, however, they still had Russell Westbrook. Russ put on a vintage MVP performance tonight and finished with 40 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists. Westbrook’s monster night led the Thunder to a 112-100 victory over the Suns on Friday night.
Westbrook came out aggressive in the absence of George, attacking the basket with reckless abandon, making a statement early on. Russ took advantage of the smaller guards on him in the post and would blow by the bigger wings to get to the basket. He scored 15 points in the first quarter and the Suns had no answer for him the remainder of the game.
Dennis Schroder got the start in the place of George tonight, and coupling him with Westbrook was very tough for the Suns defense, but Schroder struggled with his shot for much of the game. However, the quickness of both guys, their playmaking ability, and their finishing ability took a toll on the Suns defenders. The 4th quarter was the Brodie and Schrodie show as they thoroughly dissected the Suns defense in route to outscoring the Suns 37-18 in the final period. The pair combined to score 29 of the team’s 4th quarter points off of 11-14 shooting, including 4-6 from three.
OKC has been dealing with injuries all season, but it is hard to realize that with their 22-12 record. The Thunder have truly embraced the ‘next man up’ quote and whenever a player’s name is called he has been ready. Tonight it was Abdel Nader. Nader has seen little time this season, and struggled in limited action Christmas Day against Houston. However, he was needed tonight with no George and Abrines. He was aggressive on both ends and showed a supreme confidence in his offense, finishing with 18 points on 7-13 shooting, including 2-4 from three.
Defense has been OKC’s main focus all season long and tonight was no different. In the first half there were some missed assignments, slight communication errors, and that allowed the Suns to find success inside early on. OKC made some adjustments in the second half, especially in their pick-and-roll coverage, and forced many contested shots and turnovers. The Thunder trailed by three at the end of the third period, and then held Phoenix to just 18 points in the 4th, including a margin in the 4th of 31-11 before the Suns surrendered.
The Thunder shot 54% from the field and made seven of 20 attempts from three (35%). OKC did most of their efficient damage in the 4th quarter, where they shot over 70% from the field. They dominated the rebound battle 49-34 and also the points in the paint, 74-48. OKC held the Suns to 43% shooting from the field and 31% from three. They also forced the Suns to 17 turnovers.
Westbrook finished with 40 points (17-of-29 shooting) along with 12 rebounds and eight assists. Schroder put in 20 points and dished six assists. Nader scored a career high 18 points off the bench. Adams and Jerami Grant scored 12 points apiece. The Thunder bench scored 30 points.
Devin Booker led the Suns with a double-double of 25 points and 10 assists. Deandre Ayton scored 16 points and pulled down nine rebounds. TJ Warren chipped in 19 points.