In Russell Westbrook’s first game back from knee surgery, the Oklahoma City Thunder defeated the Phoenix Suns 103-96.
Despite another lackluster shooting performance from the three-point line, where the Thunder shot 2-18, Oklahoma City was able to rely on Westbrook and Kevin Durant in the fourth quarter as they pulled away late for the victory. The Thunder outscored the Suns 36-26 in the final 12 minutes, to win the home opener at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
Initially expected to miss the first four to six weeks of the season, Westbrook showed signs of his old self, as he consistently attacked the rim, and either finished at the basket or found the open man. Nobody knew what to expect from him, and people questioned whether his explosiveness would be where it once was, but he silenced all skeptics and led the way late for the Thunder.
After missing the first two games of the season, Westbrook scored 21 points, and dished out seven assists for Oklahoma City.
Durant had a quiet 33 points on 10-19 shooting from the field, and 10-13 from the free throw line, while grabbing 10 rebounds. However, the biggest concern for the Thunder, once again, was poor shooting from long distance.
Coming into the night, Oklahoma City was shooting a mediocre 26 percent from the three-point line. Aside from Durant going 2-5 from three, the rest of the Thunder shot a combined 0-16. Of course, coming away with the victory is what matters, but this will continue to be an issue for head coach Scott Brooks and the Thunder moving forward.
Serge Ibaka added nine points and 10 rebounds for Oklahoma City, and Jeremy Lamb and Reggie Jackson played well off of the bench, contributing eight and 10 points respectively.
The Suns out-rebounded the Thunder by a close margin, 43-41, but after going back and forth for most of the first three quarters, Oklahoma City was able to rely on their stars down the stretch, as they took over in the final few minutes of the game.
Oklahoma City also forced 25 turnovers on Phoenix, which led to 25 points, including eight from Suns guard Eric Bledsoe.
The Thunder will take on the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday night at Chesapeake Energy Arena. The game will be televised on ESPN at 8:30 pm.
Keys to the Game
Ball movement was good tonight. The Thunder had 20 assists, and with Westbrook back they looked much improved. However, the offense stalled a few times, as the Thunder settled for three-point shots and passed up on better scoring opportunities.
Russell Westbrook’s presence was huge for Oklahoma City. His scoring really helped the Thunder get over the hump against a pesky Suns team. The bench pitched in almost 40 points, which was huge for the Thunder. Three players, Reggie Jackson, Derek Fisher and Jeremy Lamb combined to score 27 points.
It was bad. Oklahoma City shot just 2-of-18 from behind the arc. However, a huge three by Kevin Durant in the fourth quarter was a difference maker. The Thunder have admitted that three-point shooting is an issue. They need to figure something out before it costs them a game or two.
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