Russell Westbrook began the second half of the 2016-17 NBA season how he finished the first.
In a little less than 20 minutes, the MVP candidate recorded his 28th triple-double in a dominant 110-93 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers (19-40). It was a new beginning for the Oklahoma City Thunder (33-25) who showcased their newly acquired players in Taj Gibson and Doug McDermott.
Per sports-reference.com, Westbrook became the first player since the 1983-84 season to register at least 17 points, 18 rebounds and 17 assists. In addition to the triple-double, Westbrook actually had an off-shooting night, shooting 4-of-18 from the floor.
“He was unbelievable in so many ways tonight,” head coach Billy Donovan said after the game.
The rest of the starting five came to play as well.
Filling in for the injured Victor Oladipo (back spasms, game time decision), Alex Abrines put on a shooting barrage from distance. The rookie tied the Thunder team high in scoring with a career-high 19 points on 5-of-11 shooting from the three-point line. It was Abrines’ first start of his NBA career and he certainly made it count.
“I was a little nervous,” Abrines said when asked about his first start. “After a few shots fell, I was able to settle in and play.”
Andre Roberson continued his stellar February also with a career-high 19 points on 3-of-3 shooting from deep. The much offensively maligned Roberson has made an incredible turn on the other side of the floor as of late.
The entire starting five all fell on the plus side of the +/- stat — combining for a monster +129.
It was surprising that both Gibson and McDermott were available in their first game since the trade on Thursday. Donovan expressed in the postgame that both Oklahoma City newcomers had “a lot of questions in timeouts,” but that is to be expected with not even one shoot around with the team in the 24 hours since the trade.
Gibson’s reputation of being masterful in the pick & roll offense translated well to Oklahoma City. Gibson, a 31-year-old NBA veteran, scored 12 points and grabbed 4 rebounds in his Thunder debut and dazzled fans with a few monstrous dunks.
McDermott’s ability to move off the ball and gain separation already proved valuable for the Thunder. The former Creighton star scored eight points and grabbed four boards.
Lost in the Westbrook/newcomers excitement was the return of Enes Kanter, four weeks to the day from his surgery on his forearm. Kanter, unsurprisingly, looked out of sync for most of the night and missed some shots that he normally makes. There appeared to be no ill-effects from the injury to his forearm. The reserve big scored four points and grabbed seven boards.
The Lakers fought hard to stay within arms length in the first half. A 28-19 explosion in the third quarter all but blew Los Angeles’ chance of stealing a road win out of the water. The lead ballooned to 20 points in favor of Oklahoma City.
DeAngelo Russell led the Lakers with 29 points on 12-of-26 shooting.
A strong fourth quarter push by the Lakers saw the come as close as nine points before Westbrook pulled the Thunder away for good.
KEYS TO THE GAME
Defend the three: A+
The Lakers were held to 20 percent shooting on 7-of-35 shooting. The Thunder never allowed Los Angeles to find rhythm from beyond the arc and they allowed the defense to exert themselves most of the contest.
Oklahoma City out rebounded the Lakers 59-51 and were the more physical team in the paint. Westbrook and Adams combined for 28 rebounds alone. The Thunder had a businesslike performance on the glass.
Hey Bench, show up: B
All things considered, the bench played as well as you could expect. With Kanter returning from injury and Gibson/McDermott making their debuts, some mistakes were going to happen. The bench never let the Lakers take full advantage, however. Oladipo being out moved Abrines from the bench into the starting lineup.