Westbrook picks up pace in 2nd half as OKC wins

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Russell Westbrook scored 36 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and dished out six assists against the Chicago Bulls Sunday.
Steven Adams accounted for 14 points ad 11 rebounds against the Bulls.
The dynamic duo of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook hope to be reunited Wednesday when Boston visits the Thunder.

By Tim Farley

Russell Westbrook missed another triple-double by a longshot Sunday, but his second half scoring performance pushed the Oklahoma City Thunder to a hard-fought 109-100 win over the Chicago Bulls at Chesapeake Energy Arena.

After struggling in the first half with 10 points on three of 10 shots, Westbrook’s fortunes changed drastically scoring 12 points in the third quarter and 14 in the decisive fourth quarter. In the third, Westbrook hit four of nine shots and connected on three of four free throws.

However, it was fourth quarter when Westbrook put his motor into overdrive, hitting five of eight shots and made four of six charity attempts. In the last 1:27, Westbrook scored seven of Oklahoma City’s final 13 points, including a layup to give the Thunder a four-point cushion, 99-95. Westbrook finished with a game-high 36 points, 11 rebounds and six assists.

Chicago head coach Tom Thibodeau said the Bulls did their best to stop Westbrook, but it wasn’t good enough.

“You just try to make him work for his points,” he said. “He’s playing at such a high level right now, and he is making plays on top of it so he keeps pressure on you at all times and the way he comes at you puts pressure on you at all times.”

Still, the Bulls were in a position to win until three-point specialist Anthony Morrow knocked down a 25-foot trey as Oklahoma City took a 102-95 advantage. Morrow finished the game with 11 points, hitting four of seven shots including three from behind the arc.

“It (play) was drawn up and Russell did a good of finding him,” Thunder head coach Scott Brooks said of the Morrow three-point basket. “I knew it was a good shot.”

The win pushed Oklahoma City to 37-29 while the Bulls dropped to 40-28. Oklahoma City was ½ game ahead of New Orleans for the eighth playoff spot in the Western Conference prior to the Pelicans hosting Denver late Sunday. The victory was Oklahoma City’s second in a row and its fifth in the last seven games.

Westbrook and Morrow weren’t the only heroes Sunday afternoon. Oklahoma City’s front line, once again, put up big numbers with a combined 36 points and 35 rebounds. The big men were led by Enes Kanter with 18 points and 18 rebounds, including nine offensive boards. Meanwhile, Steven Adams accounted for 14 points and 11 rebounds and Nick Collison contributed five caroms and four points. Rookie Mitch McGary had an off night with only one rebound and no points.

Some of that success stems from the pressure Westbrook puts on opposing defenses.

“They (Kanter and Adams) understand that having a guy Russell Westbrook that attack so much and forces help, especially from bigs so deep into the paint that they’re going to have opportunities,” Bulls center Paul Gasol said. “They’ve got size and strength and they pursue. They were very productive tonight.”

Brooks has been happy with the rebounding efforts by his front line, especially Kanter and Adams. Oklahoma City is the top rebounding team in the NBA.

“You rebound and you put yourself in a position to win games, and our record indicates that over the years,” he said. “I like their toughness. I like their ability, one’s ability to roll. And then, Enes has the ability to roll and catch and pick and pop. They both can get to the free throw line.”

The matchup started slow with Oklahoma City taking a 17-15 lead after the first quarter. However, both teams increased the tempo with the Bulls outscoring Oklahoma City in the second quarter, 32-20, and knotting the game 47-47 at halftime.

The game stayed tight with neither team holding more than a nine-point edge, which occurred late at 106-97 and again with the final score. Chicago’s biggest lead was five points early in the first quarter, and from that point, the Bulls never led by more than three. The Bulls’ last lead came at 80-78 as Joakim Noah scored on a driving layup with 9:14 left to play.

“Going into this game you knew it was going to be a physical ball game for both teams,” Brooks said. “I like the fact that we came out and kept competing.”

Oklahoma City played without Serge Ibaka again, forcing Brooks to start Adams along with Kanter.

“We changed the lineup, back-to-back games, and they both responded in a very good way,” Brooks said.

Oklahoma City plays at Dallas Monday and then returns home Wednesday for the first of four straight games at Chesapeake Energy Arena against Boston, Atlanta, Miami and the Los Angeles Lakers.

GAME NOTES: Oklahoma City shot 46 percent from the field, which was a remarkable comeback after a dismal first quarter when the Thunder was successful on only 20 percent of his shot attempts. Chicago finished shooting 44 percent…The Thunder also won the rebound battle, 52-33. Pau Gasol was Chicago’s leading rebounder with eight. No other Bull grabbed more than five boards…The Thunder scored more points in the paint (52-42), had more second chance points (19-12) and outscored Chicago in fast break points (10-3)…






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