Thunder: Westbrook's Astounding Third Quarter Saved OKC in Game 1 Win


Tuesday, May 17th 2016, 9:41 pm
By: Brett Coppenbarger


With the Thunder staring smack dab at a 13-point deficit at halftime, OKC desperately needed a huge spark in order to pull off the daunting task of taming the Warriors inside of Oracle Arena. Twenty four minutes remained on the game clock, but a Thunder comeback seemed iffy at best seeing the Warriors never lost a game this season in which they led by double digits at halftime.

Related: Thunder-Warriors Game 1 Recap

Only a hero could save the day, and OKC’s dynamic point guard was more than up for the task. Russell Westbrook brought his proverbial mask and cape out with him after intermission and embarked on his mission of stealing Game 1.  

You see, not only were the Warriors shooting 50 percent from the field and 53 percent from behind the arc in the first half, but Westbrook wasn’t helping the Thunder’s case, seeing he was only 1-for-8 in the first half with three turnovers.

But to the surprise of no one who’s seen him lace up the sneakers, Westbrook played without a conscience in the third quarter and OKC greatly benefited.

“We scored 38 points in the third, Russell was a catalyst getting to the rim, finishing. We just followed that lead and played hard on the defensive end,” Kevin Durant said of his superstar teammate.

Speaking of defense, even though he missed his first two shots of the second half, Westbrook made it known his demeanor was different in the third quarter, and the first thing he did was make sure Steph Curry felt his presence.

On the first defensive possession of the second half, Westbrook got caught fighting through a screen on a pick-and-roll, but due to his relentless nature, was able to fight through the pick and get into Curry’s grill. Even though a foul wasn’t called, Westbrook barely gave Curry any room to breathe, which appeared to agitate the reigning two-time league MVP who proceeded to jack up a contested 3-pointer which clanked off the back of the rim.

Related: Thunder Social Scene

Westbrook’s defensive dominance continued a couple possessions later while covering Harrison Barnes. The lengthier Barnes thought he could bring the ball closer into the post to gain an advantage, but the pesky Westbrook was able to poke away the ball on a dribble, which resulted in free throws for Kevin Durant off the fast break.

“Russ was all over the place, he caused a lot of havoc, so we definitely lost our poise and wasn’t ourselves, that’s for sure,” Draymond Green said after the game.

Despite his continual woes from the field and the Thunder still hovering around a double-digit deficit, Westbrook kept his team within striking distance by distributing to his teammates.

“For me, my job is not just to score the basketball, my job is to get guys open, defend, rebound, whatever it is that’s needed me at the time,” Westbrook said.

He found a deserted Andre Roberson in the corner with no one within ten yards, and the defensive minded shooting guard was able drain the money ball. After struggling to find a shooting touch for most of his career, Roberson’s confidence was evidently boosted at that point, and was elevated even higher when Westbrook went back to him for a wide open layup once the entire defense collapsed on the point guard.

But with 7:05 left in the quarter, Westbrook went from distributor to scorer as OKC really got rolling. Serge Ibaka dribbled the ball in the post, threw the ball back out to a curling Westbrook, who caught the ball behind the arc and released a beautiful shot that tickled the twine and brought OKC within seven points.

“When players of his caliber aren’t playing well, aren’t shooting the ball well, sometimes it only takes one to go in, I have the same mentality,” Steph Curry said. “You know that they’re not going to stop, no matter how they’re playing.”

After converting a pair of free throws, Westbrook yet again connected from outside, this time at the top of the key to make the score 68-66. The crisp sound of the ball swishing through the net echoed throughout a suddenly quiet Oracle Arena, and everyone knew that Westbrook’s scoring assault was fully engaged.

Like most good teams, the Warriors had a response to get back up 12 points after a circus bank shot by Curry, but like most good players, Westbrook wasn’t fazed.

He mellowed the Warriors’ run by breaking it up with two trips to the free throw line, and then like a lion hunting his prey, Westbrook pounced for an ill-advised pass by Green and took it the other way for a two-handed flush to bring the Thunder within eight. A couple of possessions later, Westbrook was able to come away with a loose ball he had no business recovering, all before turning up court and finding Enes Kanter on the fast break for an easy layup.

“He’s probably the quickest guards in the league in terms of getting his hands on loose balls, long rebounds, getting his hand in on a steal or whatever,” Warriors’ head coach Steve Kerr said. “There were several key ones in the second half where we kind of lost our momentum.”

Curry tried to regain the flow of Golden State’s offense, but as he dribbled towards the basket and tried to dish a pass to Festus Ezeli, Westbrook was able to get a paw on the leather and come away with yet another steal before quickly getting fouled and making a pair of free throws.  

“Careless passes, we didn’t have the flow to whatever set we were running,” Kerr said. “And I thought when we lost our aggressiveness and our momentum offensively, a lot of that had to do with his speed in aggressiveness.”

With Golden State still up seven points with 1:23 left in the third, it was time for Westbrook to put some finishing touches on his tremendous quarter and narrow the Thunder’s deficit. He zipped a pass to Kanter out on the perimeter, but the big man’s shot failed to draw iron. Fortunately for Thunder fans, Westbrook was able to scrap for position and grab the missed shot before rolling in a layup.

A pair of Adams’ free throws and a dazzling scooping layup by Durant brought the Thunder within three points at the end of the quarter, but OKC was ultimately able to cut into a 13-point deficit thanks to the guidance of Westbrook.

“He was really in the middle of the floor, he was able to get to the front of the rim, he made some passes and generated some offense for some other guys,” Billy Donovan said. “He was very well balanced between his scoring and his passing.”

The Thunder quickly tied things up in the fourth quarter, and went on to steal a playoff road game on a night where Durant missed 20 shots. It was quite the accomplishment, and Westbrook’s 15-straight OKC points in the third quarter had a lot to do with that outcome.

Westbrook finished with 27 points, 12 assists, seven steals and six rebounds in Game 1, but the Thunder will need a whole lot more of his relentless energy throughout the rest of the series if OKC wants to make its first trip back to the NBA Finals since 2012. 

But to the surprise of no one who’s seen him lace up the sneakers, Westbrook played without a conscience in the third quarter and OKC greatly benefited.

“We scored 38 points in the third, Russell was a catalyst getting to the rim, finishing. We just followed that lead and played hard on the defensive end,” Kevin Durant said of his superstar teammate.

Speaking of defense, even though he missed his first two shots of the second half, Westbrook made it known his demeanor was different in the third quarter, and the first thing he did was make sure Steph Curry felt his presence.

On the first defensive possession of the second half, Westbrook got caught fighting through a screen on a pick-and-roll, but due to his relentless nature, was able to fight through the pick and get into Curry’s grill. Even though a foul wasn’t called, Westbrook barely gave Curry any room to breathe, which appeared to agitate the reigning two-time league MVP who proceeded to jack up a contested 3-pointer which clanked off the back of the rim.

Related: Thunder Social Scene

Westbrook’s defensive dominance continued a couple possessions later while covering Harrison Barnes. The lengthier Barnes thought he could bring the ball closer into the post to gain an advantage, but the pesky Westbrook was able to poke away the ball on a dribble, which resulted in free throws for Kevin Durant off the fast break.

“Russ was all over the place, he caused a lot of havoc, so we definitely lost our poise and wasn’t ourselves, that’s for sure,” Draymond Green said after the game.

TENACIOUS Watch all 7 of Russell Westbrook's Game 1 steals. #ThunderBasketballhttps://t.co/CSeo6IlZfN

— OKC THUNDER (@okcthunder) May 17, 2016

Despite his continual woes from the field and the Thunder still hovering around a double-digit deficit, Westbrook kept his team within striking distance by distributing to his teammates.

“For me, my job is not just to score the basketball, my job is to get guys open, defend, rebound, whatever it is that’s needed me at the time,” Westbrook said.

He found a deserted Andre Roberson in the corner with no one within ten yards, and the defensive minded shooting guard was able drain the money ball. After struggling to find a shooting touch for most of his career, Roberson’s confidence was evidently boosted at that point, and was elevated even higher when Westbrook went back to him for a wide open layup once the entire defense collapsed on the point guard.

But with 7:05 left in the quarter, Westbrook went from distributor to scorer as OKC really got rolling. Serge Ibaka dribbled the ball in the post, threw the ball back out to a curling Westbrook, who caught the ball behind the arc and released a beautiful shot that tickled the twine and brought OKC within seven points.

Russell Westbrook has gone from a 1-8, 3 turnover Dead Man Walking first half... To a game-turning monster in 3rd qtr. @NEWS9

— Dean Blevins (@DeanBlevins) May 17, 2016

“When players of his caliber aren’t playing well, aren’t shooting the ball well, sometimes it only takes one to go in, I have the same mentality,” Steph Curry said. “You know that they’re not going to stop, no matter how they’re playing.”

After converting a pair of free throws, Westbrook yet again connected from outside, this time at the top of the key to make the score 68-66. The crisp sound of the ball swishing through the net echoed throughout a suddenly quiet Oracle Arena, and everyone knew that Westbrook’s scoring assault was fully engaged.

Russell Westbrook dominated the second half of Game 1 ??https://t.co/4KEqQlFS1a

— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) May 17, 2016

Like most good teams, the Warriors had a response to get back up 12 points after a circus bank shot by Curry, but like most good players, Westbrook wasn’t fazed.

He mellowed the Warriors’ run by breaking it up with two trips to the free throw line, and then like a lion hunting his prey, Westbrook pounced for an ill-advised pass by Green and took it the other way for a two-handed flush to bring the Thunder within eight. A couple of possessions later, Westbrook was able to come away with a loose ball he had no business recovering, all before turning up court and finding Enes Kanter on the fast break for an easy layup.

“He’s probably the quickest guards in the league in terms of getting his hands on loose balls, long rebounds, getting his hand in on a steal or whatever,” Warriors’ head coach Steve Kerr said. “There were several key ones in the second half where we kind of lost our momentum.”

I wouldn't want 2 match up w @RussWest44 in tiddlywinks if he was playing w house money. #GSW has 2 deal w that Wednesday. Good luck. @NEWS9

— Dean Blevins (@DeanBlevins) May 17, 2016

Curry tried to regain the flow of Golden State’s offense, but as he dribbled towards the basket and tried to dish a pass to Festus Ezeli, Westbrook was able to get a paw on the leather and come away with yet another steal before quickly getting fouled and making a pair of free throws.  

“Careless passes, we didn’t have the flow to whatever set we were running,” Kerr said. “And I thought when we lost our aggressiveness and our momentum offensively, a lot of that had to do with his speed in aggressiveness.”

With Golden State still up seven points with 1:23 left in the third, it was time for Westbrook to put some finishing touches on his tremendous quarter and narrow the Thunder’s deficit. He zipped a pass to Kanter out on the perimeter, but the big man’s shot failed to draw iron. Fortunately for Thunder fans, Westbrook was able to scrap for position and grab the missed shot before rolling in a layup.

Thunder battles! Russ scores 19 in the third quarter. Has 22 as Thunder trails Warriors 88-85 headed to 4th. https://t.co/dTrBlSnhwD

— OKC THUNDER (@okcthunder) May 17, 2016

A pair of Adams’ free throws and a dazzling scooping layup by Durant brought the Thunder within three points at the end of the quarter, but OKC was ultimately able to cut into a 13-point deficit thanks to the guidance of Westbrook.

“He was really in the middle of the floor, he was able to get to the front of the rim, he made some passes and generated some offense for some other guys,” Billy Donovan said. “He was very well balanced between his scoring and his passing.”

The Thunder quickly tied things up in the fourth quarter, and went on to steal a playoff road game on a night where Durant missed 20 shots. It was quite the accomplishment, and Westbrook’s 15-straight OKC points in the third quarter had a lot to do with that outcome.

DOMINANT RUSS.

Russell Westbrook scored 19 Pts in 3rd quarter, his most in any quarter of his postseason career. pic.twitter.com/WZuhpEW0BX

— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) May 17, 2016

Westbrook finished with 27 points, 12 assists, seven steals and six rebounds in Game 1, but the Thunder will need a whole lot more of his relentless energy throughout the rest of the series if OKC wants to make its first trip back to the NBA Finals since 2012. 

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After going 1-for-8 in the first half, Russell Westbrook was able to get the Thunder back on track in the third quarter by scoring 19 points in the frame and dialing in on defense. 

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