OKLAHOMA CITY – Well, there was no worry about Russell Westbrook and any sort of minutes restriction Friday night against Sacramento.
Westbrook went to the bench, yes, voluntarily, toward the end of the third quarter and didn’t return. The Thunder didn’t want him to and Westbrook didn’t need to.
Pretty much a win-win situation. All of it because Oklahoma City ran past lifeless Sacramento 94-81 on a night things really couldn’t have worked out much better.
The Thunder have been dealing with all sorts of issues in all sorts of situations since the All-Star break, so a Friday where things go as planned from tip to buzzer is a welcome rarity.
No drama, no mandatory resting of Russell. Nothing but a win on a night where certainly there could have been more to discuss.
After all, while Westbrook got the start, the team was still without the injured Kendrick Perkins and Thabo Sefolosha as well as Reggie Jackson, who missed Friday’s game with a mid-back sprain he suffered in practice Monday. Brooks wouldn’t say anything about Jackson’s status other than curtly suggesting the team will know more tomorrow (Saturday).
So, with Jackson out with an injury for the first time this season, Jeremy Lamb got extended minutes and everything worked out just fine. Lamb played inspired, getting 32 minutes of action, scoring 13 points and didn’t have to look over his shoulder. Lamb finished with five rebounds five assists and a pair of steals.
"They told me to stay ready and be ready to play," Lamb said, and that had to be difficult as he had played less than 10 minutes five of the past nine games.
Meanwhile, Brooks wouldn’t commit to when Sefolosha and Perkins would return either.
"I don’t know when the date they will play," Brooks said
Since last week, the Thunder have won in double overtime with Westbrook, beat Denver at home without Westbrook and then lost in overtime with him.
Friday inside Chesapeake Energy Arena, there were fewer moving parts for the Thunder. Everything was in place and OKC played like the team it hopes to be when the playoffs start less than a month from now. The lack of Jackson in the lineup, who has started when Westbrook has been out, was not a problem.
Kevin Durant kept on scoring (29 points, making it 37 games in a row with 25 or more), Westbrook had 18 points and six assists. The Thunder shot 47.8 percent while holding the Kings to just 36.5 percent. At the end of it all, the Thunder wrapped up a playoff spot – officially.
See, this is what is supposed to happen when you play a team like the Kings who have never won in Oklahoma City in 14 tries, and the Thunder did it all with ease.
"Everybody in this league has off nights," Brooks said, yet Friday wasn’t one of them.
The only thing that took the night off was controversy.
Westbrook played just 24 minutes a game after the Thunder sat him to start the overtime and then played him in overtime once the Thunder fell behind by seven points. Westbrook went 7-of-12 shooting. He looked comfortable and secure and that should be the case again Sunday when plays against Utah. Brooks said he is resting Westbrook when the team plays back-to-back games, but with the schedule setting up for the Thunder, Westbrook should be available Sunday against the Jazz and then again Thursday against the Spurs.
The Thunder can only hope things go just as smoothly.