How good is Russell Westbrook? First game off his broken hand injury and he leads the Oklahoma City Thunder to a 105-78 win over the New York Knicks, that without Carmelo Anthony are probably the second worst team in the NBA.
Westbrook scored 32 points and had 8 assists in only 24 minutes, the first NBA player to do so much in so few minutes. He created a total of 49 points for his team combined with his assists. When he was on the court, the Knicks had only 36 points as a team, and Westbrook himself had more assists than the entire Knicks team during those 24 minutes. These were just the Knicks, and the Thunder are 5-12 to start the season, but Westbrook coming back is surely a sign of optimism.
Westbrook scored his points on 12-of-17 from the field, grabbing 7 rebounds as well. More than anything, he looked like a player who was hungry for basketball, and was caged for a very long time without being able to do the thing he loves, and the thing that he’s great at. More than anything, it gave the Thunder a sense of hierarchy and order, making it quite clear where the ball is going while sorting out their rotation. All of a sudden, having Lance Thomas in the lineup wasn’t a disaster.
It was exciting, man. I’m just blessed to be able to go out and play the game I love to play, especially with my teammates. The crowd was great, the energy was high. So it was fun to be out there. The crowd helped me out. I’ll fight through it. Just keep going and keep going, and hopefully, somebody calls a timeout.
The Thunder had this game sewn up after the first quarter, winning by 17 points in it, holding the Knicks to just 13 points. Westbrook alone, with 14 points in the first quarter, was outscoring them. The Knicks, during the first half, shot just 0-for-13 from beyond the arc. It wasn’t a tactic to shoot from long range. They simply didn’t have much of a clue on how to get open shots against the Thunder, so they resorted to taking bad, long range shots.
This was just the fifth time this season the Thunder got past the 100 points mark, but that will surely change with Westbrook playing again. Their record isn’t very good, but it isn’t worst because of the defense that ranks fourth in the NBA in points allowed and field goal percentage. As incompetent as Scott Brooks is when it comes to coaching an offense, he has done a very good job in keeping the Thunder’s defense intact and efficient.
Now comes the big question: When does Durant come back? Westbrook on his own can be exciting, but also very dangerous for the Thunder, knowing he’s like lightning in a bottle, and it’s not quite clear what they’re going to get night in and night out with him. Against a pathetic team like the Knicks it looked wonderful, perfect and almost heroic. Against more capable opponents, his own way of doing everything on his own won’t always generate these results.