Thunder improve to 3-0 behind Westbrook triple-double

Photo by Torrey Purvey

By Michael Kinney

OKLAHOMA CITY — Written on the chalkboard in the Los Angeles locker room were three keys to their game with Oklahoma City. Unfortunately for the Lakers, none of them included slowing down Russell Westbrook.
Westbrook pushed the pace all night and recorded his second consecutive triple-double to lead the Thunder to a 113-96 victory over the Lakers Sunday at the Chesapeake Energy Arena.
“That’s what we do,” Westbrook said. “We have to go. That’s our advantage, we’re athletic. We’re young and we want to run up and down the floor. That’s what we should do.”
Westbrook posted 33 points, 16 assists and 12 rebounds while taking only 21 shots en route to his 39th career triple-double. Through three games, he is averaging 38.6 points, 12.3 rebounds and 11.6 assists. He is the first player in NBA history with 100 points, 30 rebounds and 30 assists in the first three games of the season.
“He had a masterful game tonight,” Lakers coach Luke Walton said. “He was getting everyone involved, shooting when the shots were there and playmaking for teammates. He showed today why he is one of the top point guards in the world.”
Victor Oladipo added 20 points, while Steven Adams scored 14 points and grabbed 12 rebounds for the Thunder (3-0).
D’Angelo Russell and Julius Randle paced the Lakers with 20 points apiece. Randle also grabbed nine rebounds. Nick Young scored 16 for Los Angeles (1-2).
With 4:30 left in the fourth quarter, Westbrook fed Adams a pass that led to an easy layup. The Lakers gave the ball away, and Westbrook turned it into a breakaway dunk that put Oklahoma City up 99-91.
“They started to press a little bit, tried to change the game,” Westbrook said. “We just started attacking the press. Getting out in transition, getting easy buckets. Getting stops when we needed to.”
Young was then called for a charge when he ran over Oladipo under the basket. Westbrook was fouled and knocked down a pair of free throws to push the lead to 10. On the next possession, Westbrook threw an alley-oop to Adams, and the Thunder led 103-91 with 3:15 left.
Randle missed two free throws before Westbrook drained a 3-pointer from the top of the key that put the contest away.
“We tried to pick up the intensity a little bit,” Young said. “We just made a couple of mistakes down the stretch. Westbrook is non-stop energy, a one-man fastbreak. He is constantly on the go. He put a lot of pressure on us, on the defense.”
As a team, the Thunder shot 47.4 percent from the field and turned the ball over 20 times. The Lakers had 22 turnovers, which Oklahoma City turned into 26 points, and shot 40.2 percent.
The Lakers came out moving the ball around and using their quickness to get the Thunder defense out of place. Randle scored eight points in the first six minutes against the bigger front line of center Adams and Domantas Sabonis.
The lead didn’t last long, as Oklahoma City grinded its way back into the game. Oladipo found his shooting touch from beyond the arc and from mid-range.
However, it was the combination of Westbrook and Adams that was too much for the Lakers to handle. The two have nearly perfected their two-man pick-and-roll, which put the Los Angeles defense on its heels.
“Steven, I’m just happy he is on my team,” Westbrook said. “He is a big part of what you guys may not see throughout the game. He’s screening, his ability to roll to the basket. His size. He has tremendous hands. He can catch the basketball at any speed and he’s always ready.”
Besides Randle, the Lakers’ offense went cold for much of the second quarter. As a team, Los Angeles shot 5 of 18 from 3-point range in the half, enabling the Thunder to storm ahead and take a 58-46 advantage into halftime.
The Thunder didn’t shoot particularly well in the third quarter, but they controlled the backboards, which kept the poor-shooting Lakers from getting easy second-chance points.
Guard Jordan Clarkson kept the Lakers close as they trailed 77-71 heading into the fourth quarter.
Los Angeles could have been closer, but it kept trying and failing to complete alley-oop dunks in the paint over the Thunder big men.
Behind Enes Kanter, the Thunder tried to pull away in the fourth. He scored six consecutive points to put Oklahoma City ahead 92-79 midway through the quarter.
“I think the bench was ready,” Kanter said. “They came out with a lot of energy. The most important key was energy. We matched their energy, and we were better on the court.”

Young Lakers heading to OKC

 

By Michael Kinney

OKLAHOMA CITY — Having a team full of talented, but young players can mean a season full of up and downs. One day they are riding high, the next they are having to pull themselves up off the floor.
That was the case for the Los Angles Lakers after beating the Houston Rockets in their season opener. They came back two nights later and felt the sting of a physical, bruising loss in Utah during a 96-89 defeat.
“It hurt, but there’s nothing we can do about it,” Lakers guard DeAngelo Russell told ESPN.com. “We’ve got to stay positive and build off it as a team.
“When we lose, we can’t be separated. That’s when we’ve got to come together. I was just trying to preach that.”
Los Angeles will get another chance on Sunday to earn their first road win when they take on the Thunder in Oklahoma City.
The Thunder is coming off a 113-110 overtime victory over the Phoenix Suns. Playing in their first home game of the season, the Thunder had to fend off the hot shooting of TJ Warren and Devin Booker, who scored four straight points in the fourth quarter to send the game into overtime.
However, they were no match for the superhuman feats of Oklahoma City guard Russell Westbrook, who collected his 38th career triple double with 51 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists.
Westbrook is the first player since Kareem Abdul Jabbar in the 1974-75 season to have a triple double with at least 50 points.
Victor Oladipo, who is in his first season with the Thunder, is learning how serious Westbrook is about winning.
“This dude right here wants to win more than anybody in the world,” Oladipo said of Westbrook. “He’ll do anything to do that.”
However, while Oklahoma was pleased to win the dramatic contest in front of their home fans, coach Billy Donovan knows they can’t count on nights when Westbrook is forced to shoot the ball 44 times.
With only one other player scoring at least 10 points and shooting more than eight shots, Donovan is looking for more production.
“Overall, we’ve gotta get more people involved,” Donovan said. “We’ve gotta be able to utilize our big guys better and pound the ball inside.”
The Thunder will have a size advantage when taking on the Lakers. Steven Adams, Enes Kanter, Domantas Sabonis and Ersan Ilyasova can all score in the paint.
Los Angeles will look to counter with a mobile and quick Julius Randle, who wants his team to take on a more aggressive attitude on the road.
“We gotta go take road wins,” Randle told the Los Angeles Times. “Stay true to our character, who we are. Just gotta take wins.”
The Thunder know what type of squad the Lakers will be bringing to town and are prepared for the to bring a lot of energy as they look to bounce back.
“They are a good, tough team,” Oklahoma City guard Andre Roberson said of the Lakers. “They are without Kobe (Bryant). They are looking to prove themselves. They are hungry. We just have to come out and be ready to fight their game from the jump.”

Westbrook, Thunder snatch OT victory from young Suns

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.”

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