Westbrook saves best for last in reunion with former coach

(Photo by TorreyPurvey.com)

By Michael Kinney

OKLAHOMA CITY – If there is one person in the NBA who knows what a motivated Russell Westbrook can do, it’s Scott Brooks. The Washington Wizards coach was the lead man in Oklahoma City for seven years before being fired in 2015.

So as much as he marveld at the recent triple-double streak Westbrook has been on, when the two met up Friday, he wanted to do everything possible to make sure Westbrook didn’t leave with the victory.

Through three and half quarters, it looked like Brooks was going to do just that. But that is when Westbrook took over and led the Thunder to a 126-115 overtime victory over the Washington Wizards Wednesday at the Chesapeake Energy Arena.

“That’s what makes Scotty such great coach,” Westbrook said of Brooks. “He’s competitive. He’s a little fireball himself. He knows how I am.

Westbrook posted 35 points, 14 rebounds and 11 assists to garner his ninth triple-double of the season and his fourth in a row. Victor Oladipo added 25 points on 10 of 16 shooting. Enes Kanter came off the bench to score 14 points as Oklahoma City improved to 12-8.

“I thought we did a good job until overtime on Westbrook,” Brooks said. “He’s hard to stop. he’s a terrific basketball player playing at a high level.”

Bradley Beal posted 31 points on 10 of 21 shooting for the Wizards. Markieff Morris tallied 19 points and seven rebounds. John Wall had a double-double with 15 points and 15 assists as Washington fell to 6-11.

With 5:25 left in the game, Beal drained a 3-pointer to put the Wizards up 97-90. Two possessions later, Steven Adams was fouled but he missed both free throws.

Washington forward Markieff Morris attempted to hammer a dunk down on Jerami Grant. However, Grant fouled him to stop the dunk and sent him to the free-throw line. But Morris also missed both free throws.

Westbrook, who was having a horrid shooting night up to that point, finally scored in the fourth by leaping over Morris for a rebound and tipping in the shot.

“You have to want it more than the other person,” Westbrook said. “Plain and simple for me. Every play matters. Regardless of what is going on in the game you can always impact the game in different ways. That’s the type of player I am.

After Morris hit a pair of free throws, Oklahoma City’s Andre Roberson drilled a 3-pointer and the lead was cut to 99-95 with 3:02 left in the fourth.

Otto Porter scored out of a timeout. But Oladipo knocked in a 3-pointer and then scored on a fastbreak dunk as the Thunder closed to within one point.

Morris and Westbrook exchanged layups before Wall scored to give Washington a 105-102 advantage.

After Westbrook missed a drive to the basket, the Wizards had two shots to make it a two-possession game. They missed and the Thunder got the rebound with 17.6 seconds on the clock.

Oklahoma City got the ball to Westbrook, who dribbled around the perimeter before raising up for a long game-tying 3-pointer with 7.6 seconds left. Porter had a chance to end the game, but his buzzer-beating attempt bounced out of the rim and sent the contest into overtime.

“We had a chance,” Brook said. “Then he got free and he hit a tough three. He makes tough shots.”

Westbrook scored the first five points in overtime before Oladipo hit a 3-pointer with 3:48 left to give Oklahoma City a 113-105 lead.

The Wizards never seemed to recover from the fourth-quarter collapse. They scored only two points in the first three minutes of the overtime. That was enough for the Thunder to close out the game.

Westbrook scored 14 of his game-high 35 in the overtime period to ensure the Thunder’s win streak extends to four games. During the win streak Westbrook is averaging 28.8 points, 14.0 rebounds and 14.3 assists.

“He’s doing an amazing job,” Kanter said of Westbrook’s performance. “He’s finding the open man, making his teammates better. Leading this team really well.”

Westbrook picked up four rebounds in the opening quarter. That guaranteed he would head into December averaging a triple-double.

It was Beal who helped the Wizards whittle the Thunder lead down. He matched Oladipo ‘s 14 points with 12 of his own in the half. But Oklahoma City still held a 60-53 advantage at halftime.

As hot as Washington was to end the first half was equal to how cold they were to start the second. But the Thunder didn’t take advantage of the cold shooting and led by nine midway through the quarter.

That is when the Wizards went on a run and tied the game at 84-84 heading into the fourth quarter. Despite his poor shooting up until then, Westbrook stayed on the attack knowing he could still help his team win.

“Honestly, it’s never stop believing into yourself,” Westbrook said. “Regardless if I miss a shot, there are other ways I can impact the game. I try to find a way to insert myself throughout the game.”

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