Many saw the final game of the 2017-18 regular season for the Oklahoma City Thunder as a foregone conclusion.
They had already proven to be mentally tough by winning on the road in Houston and Miami and earning a spot in the playoffs. A matchup with the lowly Memphis Grizzlies had little to do with this game’s pregame hype.
That of course rested with the will-he/wont-he Russell Westbrook grab those 16 rebounds to clinch averaging a triple-double for the second consecutive season. A feat no other player has ever accomplished.
“It’s amazing,” Billy Donovan said afterwards. “Last year everyone tracked it and this year no one did. It just speaks to how great of a player he is.”
The reigning MVP did not disappoint as the Oklahoma City Thunder used his ability to beat the Memphis Grizzlies 137-123 on Wednesday night.
“It’s an unbelievable blessing,” Westbrook said in the locker room. “To have teammates that support me, and I support them. To succeed at a high level like this. It’s special.”
Westbrook finished with a career-high 20 rebounds, 19 assists and a meager six points. There was some fair share of conceding by Westbrook’s teammates to allow their point guard to gobble up a rebound or two. But this was a game where Westbrook’s rebounds led to explosive outlet-to-fastbreak points for Oklahoma City.
“He (Westbrook) really surveys the floor well,” Donovan said. “When our team is shooting the ball like that, he tries to read the game to the best of his ability and it resulted in some easy points.”
With the Thunder up 27 at halftime and Westbrook only five rebounds away from the 16th board, everything seemed to be going according to plan. A few minutes into the third quarter Westbrook grabbed rebound number 16 to a loud Chesapeake Energy Arena crowd, and then it seemed Oklahoma City stopped playing focused.
“We didn’t do a great job,” Donovan said. “But we took care of business when we had to.”
Memphis went on to outscore the Thunder 39-28 in the third quarter. The deficit was cut to nine. We have all seen this movie before.
But it ended up being Oklahoma City’s night. A Terrance Ferguson three followed by two Raymond Felton buckets kept the Grizzlies from mounting a serious comeback and the Thunder were able to leave with a victory.
Lost in all this was the fact that Paul George decided not to miss a shot for most of this game. The recently struggling George dropped 40 points on 13-of-20 shooting (8-of-14 from 3) and looked like the player prior to the All-Star break.
The Thunder now know their foe in the playoffs — the Utah Jazz. Currently, the Jazz are playing Portland on the road. Depending on that game will determine whether the first playoff game will be in Oklahoma City or not.
Three Keys to the Game
40 points is great any night. Ferguson was great from three, dropping 12 points. Jerami Grant did his usual solid stuff. Felton was a welcome addition.
Efficiency is key: A
Oklahoma City shot over 55 percent for the game. They scored a season high 77 points at half. All this without their leading scorer attempting to score much.
For obvious reasons.