CHICAGO — The light came on for Russell Westbrook during the national anthem.
At that moment, as the Thunder’s point guard stood alongside teammates during the bold, bass-filled rendition, he told himself Monday night’s game would be different.
Westbrook wanted to revert to his strength, better yet to what he does best — applying pressure with aggressive attacks to the rim.
"I wanted to start the game off that way,” Westbrook said. "In other games, I’ve been settling for jump shots, and there was no reason for me to do that.”
Welcome back, Mr. Westbrook.
Behind Westbrook’s game-high 29 points, the Thunder cruised to a 98-85 win over Chicago at United Center, snapping the Bulls’ four-game winning streak on a night in which the offense was far from flawless.
Kevin Durant’s franchise-record streak of 30-point games ended at seven, largely because he was battling an injured right ankle from the first quarter on and a bulldog duo of Bulls defenders in Luol Deng and John Salmons all night long. Durant scored 25 points in just 37 minutes, his fewest since Dec. 19. James Harden was the only other Thunder player in double-digit scoring with 13 points off the bench.
But Westbrook efficiently compensated for his team’s scoring shortage, hitting 13-of-24 shots while grabbing seven rebounds and six assists in 45 minutes. It was only the sixth time this season that someone other than Durant led the team in scoring.
And what’s become apparent is Westbrook has regained his killer instinct, showing the benefits he brings the Thunder when he transforms from set-up man to scorer. It’s a transformation we’ve rarely seen this year from Westbrook, who has spent much of this season playing at a slower pace, seemingly trying to prove he can be the floor general Oklahoma City fans fancy.
Box score from Monday's game