Russell Westbrook kept Oklahoma City in Monday night’s game and played the Thunder out of its 110-102 loss to the Phoenix Suns, characterizing the meaning of rookie growing pains before a sold out crowd of 19,163 inside the Ford Center.
Westbrook finished with a career-high 31 points on 12 of 16 shooting to go with five assists and three rebounds. But it was Westbrook’s game-high six turnovers, three of them in the final six minutes, that defined his night and can only be chalked up as another step in his development.
"Russell is going to get better every game, every month, every year,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks, whose team fell to 3-29. "But it’s important that he understands that we can’t turn the ball over. That’s the responsibility of the point guard. But he’s going to continue to work on making good decisions.”
The most costly of Westbrook’s three fourth-quarter turnovers came with 2:10 remaining after the Thunder had narrowed Phoenix’s one-time 15-point lead to eight. The Suns ultimately scored on a Shaquille O’Neal layup to push the lead back to double digits with 1:48 left.
Two possessions later, O’Neal blocked a shot attempt by Westbrook with 59.8 seconds remaining to preserve the Suns’ 10-point cushion.
For Westbrook, it was a horrific ending to a performance that began with him scoring 15 points in the first quarter. Miami’s Michael Beasley, Memphis’ O.J. Mayo and Marc Gasol, and Charlotte’s D.J. Augustin are the only other rookies to score at least 15 points in a quarter this season.