Westbrook nets 33, Thunder top Hornets as Durant sits out
After a busy week of roster shuffling, Russell Westbook finally got his first look at his new teammates on the floor.
When asked how the Thunder might look once players like Kyle Singler, Enes Kanter and D.J. Augustin get acquainted to the system and Kevin Durant and Steven Adams return to the lineup from injuries, Westbook couldn’t help but break into a wide smile.
"Uh oh," Westbrook said, as if sending a message to the rest of the league.
With Durant resting his foot, Westbrook continued his hot play with 33 points and 10 assists, Serge Ibaka and Kanter added double-doubles and the Thunder defeated the Charlotte Hornets 110-103 on Saturday night for their fifth straight win.
"We feel confident with what we have as a unit, especially with the great pieces we have," Westbrook said. "Once we get everybody healthy and rolling we are going to be tough to beat. For now we have to come in every night and take care of business."
It was the latest stellar night for Westbrook, who had 34 points and 10 rebounds on Thursday against the Mavericks.
"Russell’s been a leader for many, many years and he’s done a great job of doing that," coach Scott Brooks said. "He understands the situation and he understands that we have a lot of new guys. His communicating on the court, at halftime, during timeouts, was great. He’s a leader and guys listen to him."
Westbrook was 12 of 27 from the field and a perfect 9 of 9 from the foul line, stretching his streak of consecutive foul shots made to 43, about halfway to the NBA record of 97 straight.
Ibaka had 16 points and 12 rebounds and Kanter had 10 points and 13 rebounds in his first game with the Thunder, who have won nine straight against Charlotte and moved five games above .500 for the first time this season.
Augustin had 12 points in his debut with the Thunder, including a key 3-pointer in the final two minutes on a dish from Westbrook. Singler had six points but only took six shots.
The Thunder dominated on the glass, outrebounding the Hornets 59-41 and had 20 second-chance points. Kanter had five offensive rebounds.
Westbrook’s latest big night overshadowed Mo Williams’ stellar debut for the Hornets. The veteran point guard got the start over Brian Roberts and had 24 points and 12 assists after being acquired in a trade with Minnesota. He was 5 of 10 from beyond the arc, and reached 1,000 career 3-pointers.
Al Jefferson had 20 points and 12 rebounds and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist had a season-high 20 points for Charlotte, which has lost four straight.
Jefferson said he wasn’t surprised Williams played well right out of the gates.
"You don’t see the gray hair on his head?" Jefferson said. "He’s an old guy and has been around a long time. He has pretty much seen every offense or played against every offense. It doesn’t take him too long to adjust."
Williams said coach Steve Clifford "made it easy for him" to play his own style.
Williams was pleased overall with the effort, but pointed to several mistakes he made that need to be corrected.
Charlotte trailed by as many as 12 in the third quarter, but battled back to pull even at 94 midway through the fourth quarter behind five 3-pointers by Williams.
But Westbrook took over, scoring on three straight offensive possessions on drives to the basket to push the lead to 104-96 with 2:53 left. Charlotte could never get in a position to challenge for the lead again.
Singler and Kanter both started for the Thunder.
They got off to a quick start with their new team, with Singler feeding Kanter for a dunk off a give-and-go in the game’s opening minute.
Durant’s status is uncertain, but he has not been ruled out for Sunday’s game against Denver. He underwent surgery on the foot in October.
Thunder: Adams sat out with a fracture of his fourth metacarpal in his right hand. … Ibaka was charged with a flagrant one foul in the third quarter on Cody Zeller.
Hornets: Clifford said backup center Bismack Biyombo will miss at least another three games while recovering from a bone bruise in his right knee. … Lance Stephenson and Jefferson were assessed technical fouls.
AUGUSTIN AT 2
Late in the game, the Thunder moved Augustin to shooting guard and he knocked down a big 3-pointer to keep the Hornets at bay. Augustin said he hasn’t played that position since he was a rookie playing for Charlotte, but said he was thrilled to be paired alongside Westbrook in crunch time.
Thunder: Host Denver on Sunday night.
Hornets: Visit Dallas on Sunday night.