Last season, Russell Westbrook needed all 82 regular season games to hit 18 triple-doubles. Through 40 games in the 2016-17 season, Westbrook now has 18 as his Oklahoma City Thunder defeat the Memphis Grizzlies 103-95.
In a rare January home game, the Thunder led from start to finish. It was an excellent reply to the Memphis knockout punch the Thunder endured a few weeks ago.
After being ejected in the previous match and recording no assists, Westbrook scored 24 points, dished out 12 assists and grabbed 13 boards. As impressive as his offense was, his defense was equally as impressive. Memphis point guard Mike Conley didn’t record his first points until the five minute mark of the second quarter.
Besides the triple-double, the story was the absolute brawl of a matchup between the Memphis and Oklahoma City bigs. Both teams combined for 98 points in the paint. The duo of Steven Adams and Enes Kanter combined for 31 points, 21 rebounds and four assists.
Grizzly bigs, Zach Randolph and Mark Gasol were neutralized offensively but forced Kanter and Adams into frustrating periods of play — Kanter had three airballs.
Both teams hovered around the 30 percent mark from beyond the arc. As history has shown, when Memphis and Oklahoma City get together, the defense picks up.
“I feel disrespected right along with him,” Westbrook said replying to Andre Roberson’s thoughts earlier today. The previous matchup saw Memphis absolutely light it up from the floor, especially at the end of the game when it was out of reach. Tonight, Roberson and the Thunder made sure Memphis couldn’t find any rhythm from the floor.
The Grizzlies shot 41 percent from the floor and even struggled from the charity stripe. Memphis shoots 78 percent from the free throw line but was abysmal tonight, shooting 12-of-21. On the other end, the Thunder made Memphis pay for each foul — only missing six of their 29 attempts.
While Oklahoma City led by ten throughout, the Grizzlies would not quit. Under two minutes to go, it was a four point game with the Thunder playing sloppy offense. This led to the most exciting sequence of the game.
Conley had a clean steal at the top of the key from Adams. The seven footer then hustled down the floor and forced Conley to put Memphis into the half court. After a few dribbles, Conley pulled up for a three that Adams then blocked, leading to a Westbrook steal, fast break and Oladipo dagger three. From then, the Thunder closed the game with a few Jerami Grant (10 points) highlight dunks.
“It was an incredibly play, his ability to run the floor,” Billy Donovan said in the post game. “That play embodied what was required tonight against Memphis to win.”
“He’s becoming one of the best big men in the league now,” fellow Stache Brother Kanter said after the game.
The Thunder are now 15-3 in the 18 games Westbrook has earned a triple-double. While some may see Westbrook as a stat chaser, his head coach sees it differently.
“It’s easy to get wrapped in numbers and only focus on numbers, but numbers don’t always reflect winning. These numbers reflect winning,” Donovan proclaimed. It’s hard to argue with him.
KEYS TO THE GAME
Defend the rim B-
Memphis dropped 52 points in the paint — which is nothing to write home about. But they were able to match Memphis’ physicality and force Gasol into a bad game, who scored only nine points. Westbrook even made Conley think twice on three easy layups after a monster block earlier in the game. Statistically it wasn’t pretty, but when you remember that scoring down low is what Memphis likes to do, the Thunder’s effort was paramount.
GO FAST A+
Playing fast against the Grizzlies is hard to do. Their grinding style of play is easy to fall into, yet the Thunder were able to find opportunities to get out on the open floor time and time again. They outscored Memphis 27-9 on the fast break and were able to play enough of their game to never surrender the lead all night.
PLAY WITHIN THE GAME A+
While the Thunder found opportunities to go fast, they were able to run their offense in the half court and harass the Memphis bigs. The Grizzlies were unable to put together successful runs or find any rhythm from downtown. Excellent overall game from Oklahoma City.