Westbrook's Huge Night Leads OKC In Romp Over Denver

Sunday, February 22nd 2015, 9:59 pm
By: News 9

Oklahoma City played so well on Sunday night, you would've thought it was a different team from the Thunder team that started the season.

Well, it basically is.

Five of the players that saw the court in Oklahoma City's 119-94 romp over Denver at The Peake weren't on the roster at the beginning of the season and seven weren't on the team a season ago.

What has resulted is possibly the best roster in the NBA, a group loaded with talent and scoring options out the wazoo. It's an embarrassment of riches, magnified by the presence of two of the five best players in the NBA. And here's a friendly reminder that Perry Jones, who only plays in garbage time now, scored 32 points in a game earlier this season.

One of those top five players didn't play against the Nuggets, the result of a small procedure to alleviate soreness and irritation in the surgically repaired foot of Kevin Durant. But the Thunder didn't need the reigning MVP to handle Denver on Sunday. The other half of the Thunder's dynamic duo saw to that, and made sure there is no MVP conversation the rest of the season without his name mentioned.

When Russell Westbrook has played this season, he's been arguably the best player in the league. Sure, Stephen Curry and James Harden may look more appealing as candidates and have less prickly personalities, but there's no denying Westbrook's greatness and the way he's taken his game to yet another level this season.

Sunday night, it was Westbrook's passing that turned heads and widened eyes. It looked pretty effortless, but Westbrook dished out 17 assists, setting an OKC-era record and a career-high in the process. All this was done with just two turnovers, eight rebounds and a team-high 21 points. In the second quarter alone, Westbrook had 10 assists, part of a 12-assist first half.

Ball movement was the theme of the night for Oklahoma City, particularly in the first half. The Thunder had 21 assists in the first half, an OKC-era record for assists in a half. The Thunder also assisted on all 13 made field goals in the second quarter, as OKC cruised to a 67-42 lead at halftime.

Everyone was a beneficiary of the Thunder's terrific ball movement, as the Thunder shot 52.2 percent as a team. Serge Ibaka finished with 20 points and added eight points and eight blocks. Enes Kanter had his second straight double-double with 20 points and 12 rebounds. Dion Waiters came off the bench to score 17 points. Mitch McGary had 10 points while Anthony Morrow had nine.

Remember, this is without the team's best player.

Rebounding has been a huge part of the Thunder's three wins since the All-Star break. OKC out-rebounded the Nuggets on Sunday, 60-42, its third straight game of out-rebounding opponents by 18 or more. The Thunder also out-rebounded Charlotte Saturday night by 18, while besting Dallas by 23 on Thursday.

Durant will be out at least a week while recovering from the procedure he underwent on Sunday, but the Thunder is facing the perfect stretch to play without him. Three of the Thunder's next five opponents are under .500.

It's not clear how long Durant could be out, but with the additions acquired last Thursday and how well Westbrook and Ibaka have been playing, the impact of Durant's absence will be extremely diminished.

Oklahoma City put on a clinic Sunday night. Imagine how good the Thunder will be at full strength.