Westbrook making his case for MVP in win over Suns
Russell Westbrook had 10 points on one shot early on in the first quarter.
He finished the quarter with 14 points on four shots.
And he finished the game with 28 points, eight assists, eight rebounds and a perfect 13-of-13 performance from the free-throw line.
It's time to start thinking about Westbrook for MVP. Not because of what happened Sunday in the latest Thunder win, a 112-88 victory over Phoenix inside Chesapeake Energy Arena.
No, it's time to start thinking about Russell Westbrook for MVP because he now has eight games in a row where he's scored 20 points to go along with five rebounds and five assists.
Because he missed 14 games in a row with a hand fracture and came back moving 100 miles per hour.
Because he's averaging 25.8 points per game, shooting 48.9 percent from the floor, shooting 35.7 percent on 3-pointers and averaging career highs in points, rebounds and shooting percentage.
Oh, and Sunday, Westbrook bested 7-foot-1 Alex Len on a jump ball moments after Westbrook limped off the floor with what looked like a balky knee.
There's nothing Westbrook hasn't done this year.
"I've known Russ since high school," said teammate Ish Smith. "That's Russ. He's picking his spots. It's not throwing a fastball every time. It's throwing a curve here. A slider here. That's what he's doing. If you ask me, he's playing at MVP level."
And now the Thunder are winning. Make it six in a row and eight of nine overall. That kind of ascension gets the team back among elite status. That kind of showing by Westbrook gets him in the MVP discussion.
Yes. Now. In December.
"He plays 24-26 minutes and gets 28 points, eight rebounds and eight assists," Suns coach Jeff Hornacek said on whether Westbrook should be in the MVP conversation. "He's active and he's all over the place."
A season ago, Kevin Durant earned the MVP with an efficient and effective season, carrying the Thunder for a large part of the regular season when Westbrook was out with an injured knee. Durant's performance was methodical and steady.
This year, the Thunder are getting another Durant-like season but they're also getting a large portion of Westbrook and with that comes attitude and aggression, the fire of 1,000 suns with the passion of a Facebook rant. It's undeniable energy.
"He's making shots," Suns guard Isaiah Thomas said. "He's playing at a high level and he's confident and a lot more aggressive than usual."
Aggressive enough to get called for a technical foul in the first half and dominant enough to get to sit out the entire fourth quarter.
"I'm not worried about it" Westbrook said of whether MVP talk was warranted. "I don't worry about any awards. I've never thought about it to tell you the truth."
Maybe nobody else has up until this point, either. For various reasons, some fair and some not, Westbrook has never been part of the talk for MVP.
"I'm biased," teammate Anthony Morrow said. "I've always said he's the best point guard in the NBA. If you ask me, that's definitely the case."
You saw why Sunday night.
Follow Andrew Gilman on Twitter: @andrewgilmanOK