It's been no surprise to Kevin Martin that he's started this season with a hot hand.
After scoring 15 points on just five shots in Thursday's 97-91 win at Chicago, Martin is now averaging 18.4 points on 52.2 percent shooting. Martin made eight of nine free throws Thursday, making him 30-for-32 (93.8 percent) from the foul line through the first five games.
“Health,” Martin explained. “I feel healthy right now. Last year I was bothered with the shoulder. I put in a lot of hard work this summer. When I got to Houston (at the start of the season), it was great from day one and I'm just trying to carry it over right now to the Thunder.”
Martin sustained a tear in his right shoulder last season, an injury that plagued him for much of the year and caused his production to plummet well below his customary output.
ROUGH SHOOTING NIGHT FOR RUSSELL
Russell Westbrook never could find his rhythm against the Bulls.
After struggling with his shot throughout the game, Westbrook finished just 7-for-22 from the field and missed six of seven 3-point tries.
Westbrook scored 16 points with 12 assists and had just two turnovers in his 36 minutes.
It was a performance that continued a mystifying trend defined by Westbrook following one good game with one bad one. But Thunder coach Scott Brooks saw Thursday's outing differently.
“I thought he had just an all-around great game,” Brooks said. “He didn't shoot the ball well. But what Russell does is he plays hard; he fights through screens. He was really good defensively. He set a good screen to (allow) Kevin (Durant) to get open on the big 2 … I thought he had one of his best games.”
MORE THUNDER TURNOVERS
Once again, the Thunder had a game marred by a ton of turnovers.
OKC had 22 on Thursday night. They led to 19 Bulls points.
Durant's struggles with ball security continued for the fifth straight game, as he finished with six giveaways. He now has 26 through five games, a 5.2 average.
But the turnovers didn't torture the Thunder as much Thursday because Chicago had 21, which OKC turned into 20 points.
Still, the Thunder now has 92 through its first five games, a disturbing 18.4 average.
“Obviously we don't want to have high turnovers,” Brooks said. “That's something that has plagued us throughout this early part of our season. But it's something that we're going to keep working on, we're going to drill, we're going to watch film and we're going to try to cut down those sloppy turnovers.”
Durant thinks he has a simpler solution.
“As far as turnovers,” he said, “I think we've got the right intentions but we've just got to be stronger with the ball and make better passes — and keep the ball out of my hands.”
THABEET TAKES A TUMBLE
With 10:30 left to play Thursday night, reserve center Hasheem Thabeet landed awkwardly after attempting to block a driving layup by Bulls guard Nate Robinson.
Thabeet immediately began wincing as he fell to the floor beneath the basket. He clutched his left knee while down but was able to get up and line up for ensuing free throw attempts by Chicago center Joakim Noah.
Following the first foul shot by Noah, however, Thabeet checked out of the game and went directly to the locker room. He returned to the bench moments later after being cleared to continue playing. A team official said Thabeet had a mild left ankle sprain.
A 7,600-word cover story on the Thunder will appear in this Sunday's editions of The New York Times Magazine. It can be read now at www.nytimes.com. ... Eric Maynor scored 10 points with three assists in 12 minutes off the bench Thursday. … Serge Ibaka appeared to roll his ankle late in Thursday's game. He played through obvious discomfort and finished the game. … The Thunder missed 10 of its first 12 shots but ended the opening quarter by making nine of its final 12. … Ibaka and Thabo Sefolosha combined to score 16 of the Thunder's first 18 points … Ibaka went 1-for-1 from 3-point range Thursday. He's now 1-for-3 from beyond the arc this season.