Back In Blue: Thunder Wins In Westbrook's Return

Sunday, November 3rd 2013, 10:41 pm
By: News 9

The Thunder couldn't have scheduled a more poetic opponent for Russell Westbrook's return because, against the Suns, it was Oklahoma City's phoenix who rose from the ashes.

The news broke just a few hours before the game that Westbrook, who was originally predicted to miss the first 4-6 weeks of the season, had passed all physical tests and would return early to a Thunder lineup that has missed him desperately.

And in typical Kevin Durant fashion, the Thunder leader asked to be introduced first in the pregame so that anticipation could build for the return of No. 0. And Chesapeake Energy Arena responded, as the crowd reached a fever pitch before erupting as the team's All-Star point guard trotted onto the floor for the first time since April 24.

Westbrook might not have played a meaningful minute of basketball in more than six months, but he made a tremendous impact on Sunday, guiding the Thunder to a come-from-behind 103-96 victory against Phoenix in OKC's home opener.

He had 21 points and seven assists on a bit of a rusty 5-of-16 shooting performance but he was 11-of-14 from the free-throw line, showing his injury hasn't put an end to his aggression in getting to the rim.

KD led all scorers with 33 points on 10-of-19 shooting and an 11-of-13 showing at the line to go with 10 rebounds.

But outside of the Thunder's dynamic duo, it wasn't a performance to write home about, as Oklahoma City (2-1) needed to rally late from a seven-point deficit to escape with a hard-fought victory.

Serge Ibaka added nine points and 10 rebounds but struggled again from the floor on 4-of-12 shooting, while fellow starters Kendrick Perkins and Thabo Sefolosha had a combined five points on 2-of-8 from the field. Perkins also was limited to just one rebound for the second-straight contest.

OKC did get a helping hand from a trio of guards off the bench, highlighted by 10 points and five assists in a successful debut as the sixth man for Reggie Jackson. Jeremy Lamb looked more confident, as well, scoring nine points on an efficient 3-of-5 shooting. Derek Fisher had eight points on 3-for-4 shooting and hit 3-of-3 free throws; Fisher also had a dynamic save falling out of bounds that led to a key basket down the stretch to help secure the team's 11th-straight win against Phoenix.

Eric Bledsoe, a former OKC draft pick, led the Suns with 26 points and a career-high 14 assists. Phoenix (2-1) fought hard to stick with the Thunder thanks largely to 14-of-37 shooting from behind the 3-point line but was undone by 25 turnovers.

Former Oklahoma State commit Gerald Green scored 21 off the bench for the Suns and center Channing Frye added 19.

Phoenix led 79-73 after a 3-pointer from Bledsoe with just under eight minutes remaining in the contest but Oklahoma City responded with an 8-0 run to claim a brief 81-79 lead less than two minutes later.

Frye tied the game up at 81-all but that's when the Thunder dropped the hammer, closing out the game on a 14-6 run, which was preserved late by six-straight made free throws by Durant and Westbrook in the final 29 seconds.

Oklahoma City will look for its second-consecutive home win on Wednesday when it hosts the Dallas Mavericks at 8:30 p.m. in a nationally televised showdown.