What good are triple doubles when Russell Westbrook is busy taking every bad shot that comes his way? He might be doing everything, but he’s also doing a lot of things wrong, helping the Phoenix Suns beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 117-113 after overtime, although it had something to do with the play of Eric Bledsoe and Markieff Morris as well.
Bledsoe scored 28 points, grabbed 13 points, added 9 assists and had four blocks while shooting 11-of-16 from the field. No one will remember this because it wasn’t a triple double, but he didn’t actually harm his team like Westbrook did. Morris scored 29 points and grabbed 11 rebounds. Alex Len also had a double double with 12 points and 11 rebounds, and enjoyed quite a few sweet assists from Bledsoe, including this beautiful dish for the dunk.
Westbrook said after the game that he needs to learn to trust his teammates more. He also forgot to give Kevin Durant a hi-five, leaving his teammate (still not playing) hanging, but that wasn’t why the Thunder lost. Westbrook, scoring 39 points (14-of-16 from the line), grabbing 14 rebounds and adding 11 assists, shot 12-of-38 from the field and 1-of-10 from beyond the arc. That’s the worst shooting percentage of any player with at least 30 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists in a single game during the last 25 seasons.
But while Westbrook took a lot of bad shots, he set up players for 26 points. The Thunder have nothing without him, and it seems that if the price to pay for his usually brilliant, almost MVP-like performances is having this kind of game once in a while, it’s something Scott Brooks is more than willing to pay. He didn’t “devise” this offensive system which is pretty much ‘give Durant or Russ the ball and stay out of the way’ for nothing.
But this was Bledsoe’s show. His defense was incredible, including a chase down block in overtime despite having five fouls; his offense was just as impressive and acrobatic at times as well. It’s not quite clear what the Suns were thinking when they made all these changes at the trade deadline, but it seems like it’s made this Bledsoe’s team more than anything else, or at least until Brandon Knight gets used to his new surroundings.
The Thunder are still 1.5 games ahead of the Suns, but it’s probably going to be close. The Suns haven’t given up on this season (probably), and the Pelicans will be hovering around as well. Having Westbrook gives the Thunder a huge advantage for a big chunk of the time against pretty much anyone in this league, but it’s going to take a bit more thinking and efficiency from their best player to make their movement in the seeding and playoff race upwards instead of trotting in the same place.