In the opening five minutes against New York, the Thunder's point guard missed his first three shots, clanging two jumpers and blowing a layup. Twelve seconds after the third miss, Westbrook rolled his left ankle after stepping on Mike Bibby's foot while uncontrollably barreling to the rim.
After subbing out for 22 seconds of game time, Westbrook returned and promptly picked up where he left off. He jacked two more jumpers, bricking them both to bump his brutal beginning to 0-for-5 from the field.
As recently as 2 1/2 weeks ago, we would have witnessed Westbrook lose his head. He would have become emotional, as he did during an 0-for-13 shooting performance at Memphis on Dec. 28, and played poorly the rest of the night.
But when Westbrook collected himself — making six of his final seven shots and turning it over only once more to lead the Thunder to a 104-92 rout of the Knicks on Saturday night inside Chesapeake Energy Arena — his maturity mirrored the continued growth of his team's mental makeup.
“We are maturing,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. “There's no question.”
The Thunder led by as many as 31 points and never trailed after taking a 14-13 lead. Oklahoma City jumped on a Knicks team playing without leading scorer Carmelo Anthony, who sprained his right ankle two nights earlier at Memphis.
“In years past, if we seen one of their key guys were out, we would kind of be relaxed,” said Kevin Durant, who scored a game-high 28 points. “Tonight, we didn't do that. We came out with a lot of intensity…So I think we are growing up.”
The Thunder also put on a clinic on how a team should handle a return home after a road trip, a game that is widely considered a “trap game” on the NBA schedule.
“They always say this is one of the tougher games, when you come back from a road trip,” said Brooks. “And we go right back out, so it was very important that we really lock in and defend tonight from the start and we did that.”
Oklahoma City didn't let up until the fourth quarter, when the Knicks outscored the Thunder 27-12 and became the most recent team to outshine OKC's second and third stringers in playing out the string.Box score: Thunder 104, Knicks 92