The game wasn't a minute old when Russell Westbrook caught a pass from Kevin Durant in the right corner and right off the bat revealed how he would be in complete control.
Westbrook had the green light to launch a 3-pointer. But with a defender closing in, Westbrook instead put the ball on the floor and fired a pass to a wide open Serge Ibaka who stood just above the foul line. With ample space, Ibaka smoothly swished an 18-footer.
It was the first of many magnificent decisions Westbrook made.
With its floor general in total command, the Thunder cruised to a 119-98 victory over Golden State on Wednesday night inside Chesapeake Energy Arena.
Westbrook scored 22 points with three rebounds and five assists, which isn't even his typical stat-stuffing performance. But you won't find many better all-around efforts by Westbrook this season than what he did against the Warriors.
When a teammate was open, Westbrook got him the ball. When the Thunder needed a bucket, Westbrook barreled to the rim and got a good one. When the Warriors were desperate for any type of offensive rhythm, Westbrook came up with a deflection to assure they would never land on it.
“I like the fact that he competed on both ends of the floor at a high level,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. “He has the ability to be one of the best two-way players in the game and he's been showing that all year.”
After watching Warriors guard Stephen Curry led his team to a win in the last meeting between the teams, Westbrook's defense helped to hold Golden State's leading scorer to 14 points on 5-for-20 shooting. Curry had 11 assists and eight rebounds but also turned the ball over six times.
Westbrook would later defiantly dismiss the notion that Curry's team-high 31 points in the Warriors' five-point home win over the Thunder played any part in fueling his effort Wednesday.
“Not really,” Westbrook said. “I don't think he really did too much last time if you check.”
The roles were reversed Wednesday, as Westbrook dominated the matchup this time after a 10-point, six-turnover effort on 3-for-16 shooting two weeks ago.
Westbrook added four steals and had only two turnovers in 30 minutes. With the Thunder going on to lead by as many as 26, Westbrook wasn't needed in the fourth quarter.
“He was steady,” said Kevin Durant, who scored a game-high 25 points. “His ball pressure was great. He was pursuing over screens. He was getting everybody involved. He was just energetic. That's what we need from him and he's been doing it all season.”
The Thunder led 34-22 after the first quarter, and that margin quickly grew to 20 early in the second period. Westbrook and Ibaka (15 points, nine rebounds, six blocked shots) initiated the assault before the second unit soon followed suit. Less than two minutes into the second period, Oklahoma City held a 42-22 advantage and went on to lead by as many as 22 in the first half.
OKC held the Warriors to 40.9 percent shooting and scored 29 points off 19 Golden State turnovers.
“I thought (Westbrook) established the intensity of the game right from the start and everybody else followed suit,” Brooks said.