Westbrook scores 12 with 2:05 remaining as OKC overcomes division-leading Utah
After nearly squandering a franchise-best opening-half perimeter display, Russell Westbrook again ascended as the Oklahoma City Thunder rebuked a determined Utah Jazz squad, 109-106.
Westbrook netted 12 points points as 2:05 remained, while collecting his 30th triple-double of the season (43 points, 11 rebounds, 10 assists) to punctuate OKC’s second-consecutive win vs. division-leading Utah.
The Thunder is now 24-6 when Russ garners a triple-double performance.
Meanwhile, Oklahoma City began the contest 12-of-12 from beyond the three-point arc. This unexpected accuracy set a high-water mark for the Thunder. However, OKC regressed to the mean throughout the second half, as the Jazz’ gritty defense emerged.
After building a 13-point advantage, Oklahoma City fell behind by four with 1:32 remaining. Utah’s urgent 37-16 outburst reduced Chesapeake Energy Arena to a pensive hush.
However, Russell Westbrook assured this silence was short lasting.
In addition to Westbrook’s heroics, when needed most, the Thunder bench stepped up. Overall, OKC’s reserves netted 48 points. Doug McDermott (16), Enes Kanter (15), and hot-handed starter Alex Abrines (11 pts, 3-3 3PM) assumed a major role in Oklahoma City’s success.
Pursuant to signing Norris Cole, a confident Thunder iteration earned a fourth-straight victory —while ending Utah’s three-game winning streak.
The offensively-balanced Jazz were led by Gordon Hayward’s 19 points. Though five other Utah players, including Rodney Hood (18) joined the All-Star in double-figure scoring.
Oklahoma City out-rebounded the Jazz 42-33 while owning a lopsided 22-6 fastbreak scoring advantage.
On the season, OKC’s record improves to 35-25. The Utah Jazz are now 37-23.
Russell Westbrook: Another sublime performance from perhaps the NBA’s next Most Valuable Player. Russ in the clutch was phenomenal. Following a rough fourth-quarter start, Westbrook defined the final 2:05 of play.
Three-Point eruption: It felt surreal to watch outside shot after outside shot fall for a Thunder team that’s struggled mightily from that area all season.
Thunder bench: Guys like McDermott, Kanter, Grant, and Gibson really stepped up vs. a very good Utah team.
Alex Abrines’ outside shot: The rookie has owned the starting two-guard role for OKC since the break. Abrines’ floor-spacing abilities, and fearlessness are paying huge dividends for the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Andre Roberson: Robes has now buried his last five three-point attempts. Further, the defensive ace again held Hayward in check.
Foul shooting: In a recurring theme, OKC struggled from the charity stripe. During the playoffs, 16-of-23 FT shooting vs. a quality team will become a major liability.
Semaj Christon: I’m a huge fan of RK Anthony’s work. RK’s recent piece highlighting Semaj’s journey to the league was a fantastic read. Unfortunately, though, Christon has become a conspicuous weak link alongside a much-improved Thunder bench.
Ideally, Norris Cole will provide certain elements at the back up PG position that Christon has not. The final 22 games will bear out that narrative.
The coalescing Thunder have a day off to enjoy their victory before beginning a three-game road swing Thursday night vs. division rival Portland.