Historic Westbrook Performance Leads Thunder to Victory - OKC 119, LAL 103
Russell Westbrook always plays with speed. The exact variety varies. Some games it’s a foot mashed down on the accelerator. Others it’s stop and start bursts of explosion. Tonight, Westbrook seemingly glided across the floor, moving quickly but in complete balance and control.
That curated combination served a dominant effort and was the recipe for not only a much-needed 119-103 Thunder win over the Los Angeles Lakers but also a historic night for the All-Star point guard. By dishing out a Thunder record-tying 10 first quarter assists to get his team going, Westbrook picked up his own scoring in the second half and continued to attack the glass in a 20-point, 20-rebound and 21-assist performance, becoming the first player since Wilt Chamberlain to compile such a stat line.
“Without (my teammates) none of this is possible,” Westbrook said after the game. “They make my job very, very easy and I try to do the same for them. So, just thankful for those group of guys in the locker room to be on my side, to be sharing on and encouraging, continuously putting out positive energy is always a great team especially inside of a team.”
— OKC THUNDER (@okcthunder) April 3, 2019
“It’s just epic. Man, the heart of that guy over there, honestly, is what’s so amazing,” said fellow All-Star Paul George.
Westbrook ignited the action right from the get-go, helping the Thunder to an early 19-8 lead with 6 assists on the Thunder’s first 8 baskets. Paul George added 3 dunks, including an insane reverse 360 slam, in the first 5 minutes and 10 of the Thunder’s first field goal attempts came at the rim.
“I just wanted to keep the momentum going, keep the energy going,” said George, who scored 19 points to go with 5 rebounds, 5 assists and 5 steals. “One led to another; I was getting hype off my own dunks. It’s pulling more tricks out the bag.”
While the Thunder dominated down low, the Lakers launched from the perimeter, getting back into the game after its 2nd timeout of the first quarter with a 13-2 run due to a 5-for-9 start from behind the three-point line. At one point, the Thunder began the game 3-of-17 from behind the arc, while the Lakers were 9-of-20 at halftime from deep, getting a few open looks off of late rotations, others in transition and a few with a hand in the face.
Still, thanks to a 13-of-16 start in the paint and an 8-for-8 mark in transition, where the Thunder scored 16 points in the first quarter and 34 for the game, Head Coach Billy Donovan’s club held a 59-55 halftime lead.
“A lot of teams, obviously for me, load the paint and try to stop me from getting to the paint, so I try to use that to my advantage and creating three or four people and finding open guys,” said Westbrook. “That is what I try to do, set the tone early.”
The game still hung in the balance until midway through the third quarter, when Westbrook found Terrance Ferguson for back-to-back three-pointers than attacked the rim himself on a couple of downhill layups. Using a 20-9 burst that concluded with a Westbrook jump shot and then a Raymond Felton to Westbrook fast break layup, the Thunder ran its lead out to 15 points at 85-70.
The lead ran up to 18 points as the Thunder continued to snuff out Lakers offense, holding Los Angeles to just 3-of-12 shooting from behind the arc in the third quarter and 10-for-27 (37.0 percent) overall in the period. On the flip side, the Thunder outscored the Lakers 14-3 in fast break points and 9-0 in second chance points in the quarter, dominating with hustle and extra efforts.
— OKC THUNDER (@okcthunder) April 3, 2019
“We got back to it. We got back to scrambling, pressuring, and we kept getting stops,” said George. “Getting out with transition plays, and just manipulating that zone defense that they were running.”
In the fourth quarter, however, the Thunder’s lead was whittled all the way down to just 5 points due to an 18-7 run by the Lakers to start the period. Faced with some serious game pressure, and a bit of a big picture gut check too, the Thunder locked in over the final 6 minutes and took care of business to secure a precious home victory. First Westbrook lobbed a pass to Jerami Grant (22 points) for a tip-in layup, then Dennis Schröder and Westbrook combined to go 4-for-4 from the free throw line before Westbrook finished again in transition and Steven Adams (13 points, 8 rebounds) knocked in a hook shot.
The Thunder’s run, carried along by a poise and some surehanded offense as well as tight defense that forced four of the Lakers’ 23 turnovers in the game, swelled back out to 19 points on a Schröder three-pointer with 1:26 to go that gave Westbrook his 21st assist. There was just one thing left to accomplish at that point, and Westbrook stayed in for another 45 seconds as he grabbed his 20th rebound to enter hallowed territory. After the game, Westbrook noted that he dedicated his performance to Nipsey Hussle, a fellow Angeleno and a friend of Westbrook, who passed away over the weekend.
“Just an unbelievable moment that I definitely won’t take for granted, won’t let pass by,” said Westbrook. “Just completely humbled and thankful to be able to go out and play man. I do not even know what to say, put into words honestly.”