It was just one of those nights in Phoenix. Ya know, the ones where it feels like OKC is down and out all game, and then Russ goes into takeover mode and saves the day? Yeah those. We’ll get to Russ in a little bit.
The Thunder hadn’t won in Phoenix since February 2016, but found a way to once again scratch and crawl to a victory. I said it in the last edition of Thunder Views: it’s not going to be pretty. All that matters from here on out is that they find a way, and last night, they got it done.
OKC’s defense was not sharp through 36 minutes. They gave up 37, 30, and 32 across the first three quarters last night, but that changed when they held the Suns to just 17 in the fourth, holding the hot-shooting Devin Booker, who had 32 points through 3 quarters, to only 7 on 3-8 shooting, as well as forcing him into the game-deciding turnover that led to a Westbrook dunk.
The Thunder locked down when they needed to in the closing minutes on Friday, and it was seal the deal.
12 minutes of solid defense is great, but OKC needed a full 43 from the reigning MVP.
Russ was phenomenal last night. His shot selection was terrific, he was aggressive and energetic, and provided the efficient spark that the otherwise-dull Thunder group needed. Westbrook finished with 43-14-8 on 16/25 shooting.
He really did everything for OKC last night, hitting a huge three late, taking over offensively in crunch time, and attacking the rim at will no matter what Phoenix threw at him. I’m telling you, he did it all.
Russ even wiped the floor:
hit the clutch three:
Westbrook now up to 40 pts, 12 reb, 8 ast. Thunder up by 3. pic.twitter.com/srCVzm3dFD— Up The Thunder (@UpTheThunder) March 3, 2018
and then emphatically placed the cherry on top.
That'll do it.— OKC THUNDER (@okcthunder) March 3, 2018
Russ finishes with 40p/14r/8a. pic.twitter.com/erCyKSvxnt
If you enjoy vintage, rim attacking Russ, Friday night was your kind of game.
- Larry Fitzgerald was sitting courtside and helped Russ get up off the floor midgame. Westbrook called it a “once in a lifetime” event.
- Paul George finished the night with 20-5-5. He was a big difference in the Thunder’s fourth quarter defensive effort. When asked the difference in their first and second half performances, PG stated, “We played defense.” He’s not wrong.
- The bench was productive again on Friday - Grant 11p, Ferguson 8p, Abrines 6p, Felton 5p, Patterson 3p. That widespread production from the second unit is extremely beneficial.
- I’m beating a dead horse by stating this again, but the Thunder are in the thick of one messy playoff race. There’s currently six teams within 2 games of each other.
- Just a thought — I can’t help but think about what it’d be like if the Thunder played to their highest defensive ability at all times, similar to how they played in last night’s fourth quarter. OKC fans would have plenty less gray hairs, that’s for sure.
- Corey Brewer has yet to officially sign, so he was not in Phoenix with the team last night.
A Look Ahead
The Thunder head to Portland for the second part of their current back-to-back. The Trail Blazers have won 5 in a row and are 7-3 over their last 10 games and have already beaten the Thunder twice this season. OKC’s Northwest Division foe sits at 36-26 — one less win and one less loss than the Thunder.
This next stretch will be the toughest of OKC’s season. 14 of their final 18 games are against teams over .500. Tomorrow night in Portland kicks off said stretch run.