Magic 98, Thunder 89
A few notes from the day….
* As soon as Russell Westbrook learns a little more control and develops better decision-making he’s going to be a serious all-around threat. This is the second time he’s bounced back from a terrible game and had an extremely solid performance. He finished with 19 points, nine rebounds, five assists and two steals in 33 minutes, one game after scoring 10 points on 2-for-9 shooting with five assists and five turnovers against Charlotte. When he went 3-for-19 against Orlando on Nov. 12, he notched his first career double-double two nights later against New York with 19 points, 10 rebounds and six assists. That says a lot about the kid’s heart.
“I was just trying to come in and be aggressive,” Westbrook said. “The last game I wasn’t aggressive on the defensive end and put my team in good position. That’s what I tried to do today was play defense and get us in transition and rebound the ball, which I haven’t been doing.”
I asked Thunder coach Scott Brooks why he sat Westbrook for nearly a 12-minute stretch from the six-minute mark of the third quarter to the six-minute mark of the fourth quarter, a span in which the Magic turned a 3-point advantage into a nine-point lead.
“It’s just the rotation,” Brook said. “Russell needed a break. When he plays the way we want him to play he’s going to get tired. The way he was pressuring the ball and going up and down he needed some blows tonight. It’s tough to play a lot of minutes when you’re playing hard like that.”
* Hats off Johan Petro for his performance tonight, without a doubt the best effort after Westbrook’s and perhaps even better given the shock factor of his number being called. Entering Friday’s game, Petro had played just 12 minutes in the Scott Brooks era, all of them coming in one game. He’s walked around the locker room lately looking like he knows he won’t play. So for him to score 15 points off the bench on 7-for-9 shooting in 19 minutes says a lot. Early foul trouble by Chris Wilcox and Nick Collison, coupled with Jeff Green having to briefly leave the game in the first half after being hit in the midsection, presented an opportunity for Petro. And he responded, not only by scoring against All-World defensive center Dwight Howard, but by getting in the passing lanes and coming up with two steals. Granted, he needs to work on his two rebounds.
“I’m proud of him,” Brook said. “I’ve been in that position many times and I’ve laid an egg as a player. He came in (and contributed). That’s hard to do…But this is the NBA. You might have to get out there and play 25 minutes.”
* Green said he is OK after getting hit in the midsection, a play in which he was called for an offensive foul. Obviously, he returned to the game. But what fans didn’t see was him rolling around on the Amway Arena floor for several minutes while the telecast was on commercial break.
“I’m fine now,” Green said after the game. “It was an accident. It hurt for a little while. It was tough that I couldn’t play. Being out of the game, I hate doing that. But it’s nothing big. I got hit in the wrong section.”
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