Russell Westbrook might have had one of the weirdest games you'll ever see.
In the first half of the Thunder's 114-108 win over the Lakers on Friday night, he was virtually unstoppable, making nearly every shot he threw at the rim.
In the final 24 minutes, he barely could buy a bucket.
But in the end, all that mattered was the message he once again sent to the Lakers, a memo he's made crystal clear in each of the past three seasons but one that just might be more meaningful now than it ever was.
The Lakers, regardless of their extreme Hollywood makeover, still can't guard him.
Westbrook scored 33 points with eight assists in 40 minutes to lead the Thunder to its seventh straight win. He made 12 of 26 shots, including a career-high five 3-pointers while turning the ball over only twice.
Good thing Steve Nash was sitting on the bench in a suit.
No telling what Westbrook might have done to the Lakers had their starting point guard, a notoriously poor defender, been available.
Though this first meeting between the Thunder and Lakers lacked the luster it could have carried thanks to injuries to Nash and Lakers forward Pau Gasol, the dominance of Westbrook seemingly won't change whenever the Lakers get right. And that's something the Thunder and its fans can find comfort in if these two teams do indeed meet in the Western Conference playoffs.
Westbrook always has been and continues to be the Thunder's X-factor against the Lakers.
“He's a hometown guy,” said Kevin Durant of Westbrook. “He's from L.A. You always want to play well against your hometown team. He came out tonight and was on fire in the first half, and it opened it up for everybody else in the second and we were able to cruise for a good win.”
Westbrook entered the game averaging 20 points, 3.8 rebounds and 7.2 assists against the Lakers. Against Nash, who missed his 18th straight game while nursing a fractured fibula, Westbrook has been just as lethal, averaging 20.2 points, 4.7 rebounds and 7.7 assists.
On Friday, Westbrook poured in 27 points in the first half, making 10 of 16 shots and all five of his 3s before the intermission.
He scored the Thunder's first six points, burying two 3-pointers, and remained blisteringly hot the rest of the half.
“My teammates found me for open shots and I knocked them down,” Westbrook said. “When you make your first two, it definitely helps you.”
After one quarter, the Thunder trailed 27-26, getting within one off a buzzer-beating 3-pointer by Westbrook. But the period was problematic for the Thunder, largely because OKC couldn't consistently corral defensive rebounds. The Lakers pulled down eight offensive rebounds in the quarter and turned them into eight second-chance points. For the quarter, the Lakers out-rebounded the Thunder 18-9.
“They were getting too many offensive rebounds that first half,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks.
The Thunder took control in the final six minutes of the second quarter.
And Westbrook led the way.
Behind an offensive explosion from Westbrook, Oklahoma City turned a 40-37 lead into a 67-53 advantage at halftime. Westbrook scored or assisted on 21 of the Thunder's final 27 points in the period. OKC outscored L.A. 41-26 in the frame.
Once again, Westbrook brought his best against his hometown team.
“They're a team that everybody likes,” Westbrook explained. “And as a young team coming up you always want to beat the best.”
Westbrook had just six points on 2-for-10 shooting in the second half. But that's when Durant picked up where his All-Star teammate left off. Durant scored 18 of his game-high 36 points in the second half, helping the Thunder to lead by as many as 19 before dropping the Lakers to 9-11 this season.
“We all know that the Lakers are one of the best teams,” Brooks said. “They don't have the record right now that they will. But they will. They're going to get some guys healthy and they're going to get some rhythm.”