In Friday's 104-94 win over Detroit inside Oklahoma City Arena, we saw the side of Westbrook that gets his teammates involved early, intentionally putting his own offense on hold while setting up everyone around him.
That version generally leads to unselfish play. That version triggers a trickle-down effect that encourages everyone else to join in on the ball movement. That version enables the Thunder to shoot 50 percent from the field, dish out 25 assists and commit only 11 turnovers as it did against the Pistons.
The other version, which sees Westbrook come out firing while apparently forgetting he's a point guard or that he has four teammates on the floor with him as he did Monday at Memphis, isn't pretty. The other version leads to high volume turnovers, low-percentage shots and a series of stagnant or discombobulated offensive sets.
“That's the thing that he's improved on,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. “He has to pick and choose his spots during the game, when to be aggressive and look for his stuff and when to pass…I thought he had a really good game.”
Westbrook's final line: 13 points, 11 assists, four rebounds, a steal and only three turnovers. After two bad passes, one in the first quarter and one in the third period, Westbrook's final giveaway came on a charge call with 1:46 remaining in the fourth quarter. His patience, poise and passing throughout the remainder of his 33 minutes, 19 seconds set the tone for his teammates.
In the first half, Westbrook scored just six points on only five shots. He had six assists, as the Thunder racked up 15 as a team while turning it over only three times. For the game, Westbrook's 14 shot attempts (three below his season average) were a team-high and illustrated how evenly the ball was spread.
“We played solid with the ball offensively all night, a lot of good extra passes and low turnovers,” Brooks said. “When we do that, we make shots.”
The Thunder's best showing of ball movement came inside the final three minutes of the third quarter. It would turn the tide for good. Oklahoma City upped a six-point advantage to an 11-point lead heading into the fourth after closing the period six-for-six from the field. The Thunder assisted on five of those baskets. Westbrook had three helpers, which included a swing pass to James Harden for a 3-pointer, a dish to Kevin Durant for a layup and an alley-oop to Harden for another layup.
Durant led five Thunder players in double-digit scoring with a game-high 24 points. Harden scored 22 off the bench. Serge Ibaka chipped in 16 points, and Nick Collison had 10.
“It's like any sport, you get a few baskets you feel good about yourself,” Durant said. “Everybody was energetic on the offensive end tonight…Russell did a great job of controlling the tempo.”