Westbrook earns weekly honor

 

By Michael Kinney

One day after leading Oklahoma City to a win over the Houston Rockets, guard Russell Westbrook was named the Western Conference Player of the Week. The honor comes from games played Dec. 18-24.

During that time span, the Thunder were undefeated with a 4-0 record. That includes going 3-0 at home. That includes winning by a margin of 11.5 points a game.

Westbrook averages of 29.8 points on .598 percent shooting (49-82 FGs) to go along with 9.0 rebounds, 9.5 assists and 2.50 steals in 34.5 minutes.

“One thing about me is I impact the game in different ways,” Westbrook said Monday night. “Shooting is not the only way, scoring is not the only way to impact the game. Defend, rebound, make plays for my teammates, leadership, all aspects. I feel like I’m a guy who does everything on the floor at all times, and that’s what I lean on.”

Westbrook has 11 triple doubles on the season. His latest came December 23 in Utah in which he posted. He now has 90 for his career.

While Westbrook is known for his triple doubles and offensive explosion, it’s his defense that has taken a step up in many areas. Last week he led the NBA in loose balls recovered (13) and tied for second with teammate Paul George in deflections (24).

I’m coming, you know?” Westbrook said. “That’s what I bring to the table. Once I hit the floor, it’s non-stop.”

This is the 16th time in his career Westbrook has been named Western Conference Player of the Week.

Westbrook and the Thunder will put their five-game win streak on the line Wednesday when it hosts the No. 1 team in the Eastern Conference, the Toronto Raptors.

Michael Kunney is a Freelance Content Writer with Eyeamtruth.com

Defense keys Christmas night victory for OKC

Photo by TorreyPurvey.com

By Michael Kinney

OKLAHOMA CITY – It has happened quietly and without much fanfare, but the Oklahoma City Thunder are on a roll. After starting the season at 8-12, the Thunder had won 10 of their last 13 games heading into their Christmas matchup with Houston Monday night.

While Oklahoma City’s offense, which had been below average, has shown improvement, the foundation for their recent run has been the overall team defense. That is an element very few people expected from a group of all-stars who were put together in the offseason.

But it was that defense that showed up down the stretch Christmas night that sealed a 112-107 victory against the high scoring Rockets.

“I thought we took on the challenge; we knew it was going to be tough,” Thunder forward Paul George said. “We knew were going to be tested with their ability to spread out and shoot, but again I thought we just did a great job taking on that challenge.”

No sequence better exemplified the thunder defensive tenacity than when Andre Roberson was guarding Houston’s James Harden with 30 on the clock and Oklahoma City leading by three.

Throughout the night Harden had been able to use his quick release to hoist up a 3-pointer despite tight defense coverage. So with the game on the line, he tried the same shot from the top of the key.

However, Roberson was ready for it. He timed Harden’s release and blocked the 3-point attempt. Russell Westbrook got the ball then fed Roberson for a layup to put Oklahoma City up 112-107 and essentially put the contest away.

“Yeah, he has obviously played against him a lot,” Thunder coach Billy Donovan said of Roberson defending Harden. “And I have said this before, not only does Andre have great defensive ability, but he is really smart and he is experienced and he has played against the elite players in this league. Harden is a really, really hard guy to defend.”

Harden ended the night with 29 points on 7 of 18 shooting, to go along with 14 assists. Trevor Ariza and Eric Gordon each posted 20 points in the loss.

Westbrook led all scorers with 31 points as he made 12 of his 24 shots. He also collected 11 assists and six rebounds.

George scored 24 points and Carmelo Anthony added 20. Steven Adams posted 15 points and 10 boards. With 6 points and four steals, Roberson was the only Oklahoma City starter not to score in double figures, but his teammates felt his impact regardless.

“He lifts our team to another level when he is playing that well defensively,” Anthony said. “It puts a challenge on us to have his back, to be there for him, to step it up another notch on the defensive end. When he plays like that defensively, he gives our team a whole different dynamic.”

Oklahoma City (19-15) now have wins against Golden State, Houston and San Antonio. All three victories came at home, where they hold a 13-4 mark.

The Thunder carries their five-game winning streak into a Wednesday night matchup with Toronto (23-8), where they will find another streaking team. The Raptors are 9-1 in their last 10 games and have the best record in the Eastern Conference.

It’s another chance for the Thunder to showcase their defense against stiff competition.

“I still think for us there is still a lot of room for improvement and areas that we can get better,” Donovan said, “but I think that we continue to improve and get better.”

Michael Kinney is a Freelance Content Writer with Eyeamtruth.com

Westbrook saves best for last in Thunder win

Photo by TorreyPurvey.com

By Michael Kinney

OKLAHOMA CITY – Oklahoma City has made it a habit of playing down to their opponents this season. Losses to Dallas and Orlando are just a few of the examples of when they allowed their opponent to stay in games.

When the Thunder hosted the Atlanta Hawks Friday night, the trend continued. But this time Russell Westbrook was able to save Oklahoma City in the final seconds with a game-winning shot as they pulled out a 120-117 victory.

“It was great,” an understated Westbrook said. ‘We put ourselves to be able to win a basketball game with the last shot and it went down.”

Westbrook led all scorers with 30 points on 12 of 17 shooting. He also collected seven rebounds and 15 assists.

“Just read and react,” Westbrook said of controlling the game. “Use your instincts and find ways to get guys the basketball.”

Carmelo Anthony tied a Thunder record with seven 3-pointers on his way to 24 points. Paul George added 17 points while Steven Adams chipped in with 16.

Marco Belineli led Atlanta with 27 points on 10 of 18 shooting. Ersan Ilyasova added 22 points in the loss.

Oklahoma City has now won eight of their last 11 games to move to 17-15 on the season. They head into Utah Saturday for the second game of a back to back.

However, the Thunder were close to heading into Utah with a sour taste in their mouths after letting a 16 point lead disappear. But Westbrook and company made sure not to let that happen.

Adams tipped back in a missed Anthony jumper with 43.9 seconds on the clock to give Oklahoma City a 116-112 advantage.

It looked like it was over before Ilyasova knocked down a 3-pointer from the corner. But as he was coming down, he hit Adams in the midsection. No foul was called and the Thunder led 116-115 with 38 seconds left.

The Thunder ran down the clock and got the ball to George. Atlanta’s Kent Bazemore fouled him as the shot clock ran down. However, George missed 1-of-2 free throw attempts and the Hawks only trailed by two with 15.9 on the clock.

Ilyasova tied the game with two free throws and the Thunder got the ball with 11.1 seconds left.

That was enough time for Westbrook to put on his Superman cape and save the day. After the ball was thrown into him from out of bounds, he sized up his defender before reigning down a 28-foot 3-pointer.

Atlanta was left with only 1.7 on the clock and got off a desperation heave that was off the mark.

“With his speed and explosion, it’s tough to get into him that far away from the basket, “Hawk’s coach Mike Budenholzer said. “He is attacking and getting down hill, that’s not easy. So when he pulls up from three or four feet behind the 3-point line, there is no doubt he is capable of doing it. He’s done it a lot of times. And he did it tonight. You just kind of tip your cap to him and just got to take it.”

Michael Kinney is a Freelance Content Writer with Eyeamtruth.com

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