All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook is no stranger to filling up a stat sheet, but in Friday night's hard-fought 106-94 victory over the Utah Jazz, Westbrook's stat line runneth over.
As is often the case with the Thunder's whirling dervish, there was both good and bad in how he performed before a sellout crowd of 18,203 at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
The good came with 23 points, 13 rebounds, eight assists and seven steals while pushing OKC's record to 13-4.
The bad came with 6-for-18 shooting from the field (3 for 13 from 2-point range), eight turnovers and one technical foul.
No one expects more from Westbrook than Westbrook himself, but he was smiling throughout his postgame interview.
Westbrook tied his career-high in defensive rebounds, was one shy of his career-high in steals, was two shy of his career-high in total rebounds and — ahem — one shy of his career-high in turnovers.
Arguably the league's premier athlete, Westbrook appeared to have the pedal to the metal the entire night and was slowed only when questionable officiating calls didn't go his way (hence, the technical).
Westbrook took command when it mattered most and helped bring a halt to a furious Utah rally that had cut OKC's 16-point lead at the outset of the fourth quarter down to five with 7:41 remaining.
In the final 9:01 of the game, Westbrook had seven points, four rebounds, three steals (and two turnovers).
“He was great, like he's been all year,” said Thunder newcomer Kevin Martin, who had 19 points off the bench. “He has the keys to our car as the point guard, so we're following him and tonight was a great example of him getting everybody involved and just having the willpower to lead us to victory.”
A 27-second spurt midway through the final period was a microcosm of Westbrook's night: After the Jazz narrowed its deficit to 88-83, Westbrook converted two free throws at 7:29, stole the ball at 7:16, turned the ball over at 7:11, stole the ball back at 7:08, all of which led to a Kevin Durant dunk and free throw at 7:02 to instantaneously put OKC back up 93-83.
“That was probably the most inspired basketball play you can come up with as a team,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said of Westbrook. “Just look at his stat sheet. Unfortunately, he had the eight turnovers, but there were a couple of tough calls, a couple of tough breaks, but that's part of the game.
“I thought Russell was as good as you can be from the point-guard spot.”
Utah is one of the most physical teams in the league, much like the Memphis Grizzlies, who previously had their way with a 107-97 victory in OKC on Nov. 14.
That's why entering the game, Westbrook had committed himself to hitting the boards hard to help out his frontcourt teammates.
“Our bigs were working hard, doing a good job of blocking shots,” Westbrook said of his teammates, who had 14 blocks on the night. “I came into the game making sure I was going to take care of all the loose balls and try to care of anything that was outside the paint. … Come, and be ready to play and I tried to set the tone for my team.”
Westbrook was well-aware of his hiccups, too.
Told how many steals he had, Westbrook immediately chimed in, “Yeah, eight turnovers, too. That's all right, I'd rather have it that way than having a loss.”