PHOENIX — Russell Westbrook lurked near the free throw line and waited on the outlet pass he was sure would come. The second it did, Westbrook pounced. He jumped in front of Goran Dragic and intercepted a pass from Jermaine O'Neal just beyond the painted area extending from the Thunder's basket.
As O'Neal attempted to recover, Westbrook had already gathered himself to go up for a dunk.
O'Neal was too late.
Westbrook threw down a one-handed flush over O'Neal that ignited a 16-2 run to end the first half and propelled the Thunder to a trouble-free 97-69 victory over Phoenix on Sunday at US Airways Center.
“I just tried to find a way to create offense off our defense,” Westbrook said. “I think that's our biggest advantage as a team and I try to use it to our advantage.”
Westbrook went on to cap the game-changing rally with a 3-pointer to beat the second-quarter buzzer. After leaning into his follow-through, as if he was willing the shot through the net while watching the ball's flight, Westbrook turned and gave a menacing look in the direction of Dragic, who was left with no choice but to turn and walk toward his team's locker room.
“Scotty (Brooks) drew up a good play,” Westbrook said. “Everybody did their role. Kevin (Durant) came off real hard. (Kendrick) Perkins screened down. And I was able to get open and knock the shot down.”
The bucket completed a turnaround in which the Thunder went from a 35-32 lead with 4:12 remaining in the second period to a 17-point halftime advantage.
Things only got worse for the home team from there.
The Thunder took complete control of the game in the third quarter, outscoring the Suns 23-14 and holding Phoenix to just eight points over the final nine-plus minutes of the period.
Phoenix's 21 fourth-quarter points — all of which came after the Thunder had built a 35-point lead — were the most the Suns scored in any period. The Suns needed a putback dunk from reserve forward Wesley Johnson with 7.8 seconds remaining just to match the Thunder's opponent low for scoring, which was first set by Charlotte on Nov. 26.