“Without their star,” Durant said of Anthony, “people are going to step up and J.R. Smith was unbelievable tonight.”
Durant got no argument from anyone in an OKC uniform.
“He was making some tough shots,” Brooks said. “He’s one of those guys in this league you can guard him well and he can make some tough shots, and he probably made seven of those. You couldn’t do anything else. He was in a zone. A couple of times we lost him in transition. A couple of times we switched and we didn’t communicate the switch well enough.”
A revolving door of players attempted to defend the 6-foot-6 Smith, including Durant and his 7-foot-5 wingspan.
“When I guarded him,” Durant said, “I tried to make him shoot over the top and if he hit it, you have to pat him on the back.”
In the final sequence, Westbrook drew the short straw and defended Smith.
“I tried to get to my spot where I wanted to get to,” Smith said. “I really should have went to the basket. … They (coaches) told me to take what the defense gives me.”
Westbrook stood his ground, then stayed in front of Smith, who turned his back, faked left, the spun right before hoisting a shot that never looked on-line.
Even more impressive, Westbrook’s defensive stop came on a sprained right ankle he injured toward the end of the first quarter that obviously affected his play.
Westbrook had 15 points, was 5 for 9 from the field and committed zero turnovers before getting his ankle re-taped in the locker room. Thereafter, Westbrook shot just 3 for 13, scored six points and had five turnovers.
The sprain is considered mild and Westbrook is expected to play in Friday’s 6 p.m. game at Charlotte.
Also excelling for the Thunder was power forward Serge Ibaka with 12 points (5 for 7 from the field) , nine rebounds and five blocked shots. Sixth man Kevin Martin, who had often struggled on the road this season, had 16 points, shot 4 for 6 from the field (3 for 5 on 3-pointers) and added four rebounds and four assists.
Reserve point guard Reggie Jackson had eight points, which included draining both of his 3-point attempts.