Photo by Sam Murch
By Michael Kinney
OKLAHOMA CITY – Russell Westbrook is a different breed of player. Things that wear down mortal athletes don’t seem to bother the Oklahoma City guard.
Westbrook scored 51 points as part of his 38 career triple-double to lead the Oklahoma City Thunder to an 113-110 overtime victory over the Phoenix Suns on Friday night at Chesapeake Energy Arena. He made 17 of 44 shots from the field and had 13 rebounds and 10 assists. It was the first-triple double that included 50 or more points since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in 1974-75 season.
Despite playing 45 minutes, Westbrook was not phased.
“You have to want to win,” Westbrook said. “Very simple/. If you want to win, you don’t think about being tired. Being tired is a mind thing. It’s all in your mind. You have to go out and compete at a high level and leave it on the floor.”
Thunder guard Victor Oladipo added 21 points. No other Oklahoma City player scored in double figures.
The Suns were led by guard TJ Warren’s 30 points and nine rebounds. Guard Devin Booker scored 21 points and Eric Bledsoe added 17.
“Our young guys came in here and got a lot better from last game,” Suns coach Earl Watson said. “I am just proud of those guys in the locker room.”
With 6:53 left in the fourth quarter, Warren drained a jumper to push Suns’ lead to seven. Thunder center Steven Adams came back with a tip-back dunk.
However, Warren knocked down another jumper before Westbrook was fouled while hitting a shot. He missed the free throw, but Adams collected the rebound and was fouled by Suns center Tyson Chandler. Adams hit both free throws to close gap to 96-95 with 5:38 left in regulation.
A Westbrook layup put Oklahoma City ahead for the first time, but Suns guard Brevin Knight took the lead right back with a layup over Adams.
Oladipo hit two free throws and the Thunder were back in front 99-98. After the Suns came up empty on back-to-back possessions, Andre Roberson drained a long 3-pointer to give Oklahoma City a 102-98 advantage with 2:39 on the clock.
Suns scored the next four points and tied it. The Thunder had the ball with 30 seconds left. Westbrook missed back-to-back shots, but the Suns knocked the ball out with 1.1 seconds on the clock. Adams’ shot was short and the game headed into overtime.
With 1:11 left in the extra period, Adams completed a three-point play that put Oklahoma City ahead 109-108. But Phoenix guard Eric Bledsoe hit a tough layup over a leaping Westbrook to put the Suns up 110-109.
With 13.5 seconds left, Oklahoma City had the ball. Westbrook drove straight down the lane for a layup that put the Thunder ahead by one with 7.5 seconds left.
Booker got the ball and tried to go baseline. But Roberson, for the second straight game, came up with a clutch blocked shot at the rim. Westbrook got the rebound and was fouled. He hit both free three to close the game.
“We messed up the coverage,” Roberson said of the defensive play. “But we never gave up. With stuck with it. Steve closed out, I helped him out. I got the blocked, used my instincts. We got it done together tonight.”
Oklahoma City outrebounded Phoenix 57-44. But they also had 2-15 lead in turnovers.
The Suns only shot 5 of 8 from behind the arc, but made up for the lack of proficiency in other areas.
“We played hard,” Booker said. “A lot better from the first game, which is really important. You know we are moving in the right direction. Every time we step on the floor, we want to get better and I feel like we did that tonight.”
Unlike their season opener, the Suns came out full of energy and shooting lights out. They had a balanced attack as all five starters scored in the game’s first six minutes.
But it was the three guard combination of Booker, Warren and Knight that wore out the Thunder early. The trio combined for 27 points in the first quarter as they drained jumper after jumper and took a 40-25 lead.
After allowing the Suns to shoot almost 70 percent from the field in the opening quarter, the Thunder locked it in during the second period and held Phoenix to 5 of 26 shooting.
Westbrook tried to single-handily got the Thunder back into the game. He scored 23 points in the third quarter, but Oklahoma City still trailed 83-77 heading into the fourth.
“That’s what he does,” Booker said. “He is an aggressive scorer. One of the best players in the league, we knew that coming in. I think he took like 45 shots. We know he is going to get his shots.”