With Kevin Durant missing his first game of the year because of a sprained left ankle Friday, and Jeff Green sitting for the sixth time in the past seven games due to the same injury, Thunder guard Russell Westbrook became OKC's unquestioned leader against Boston.
Westbrook scored a game-high 31 points with six assists and four rebounds, and his continued emergence drew plenty of attention from media members. When asked about Westbrook, Celtics coach Doc Rivers included the third-year point guard among the league's best playmakers.
â€œIt's tough when you've got Durant on your team,â€ Rivers said of Westbrook garnering attention. â€œBut he's one of the better point guards in the league. The elite group of point guards is growing, which is really good for our league. And he's in it. And he's tough. He's a tough guard. His speed and strength combination is as good as any point guard in the league.â€
DURANT FEELS FOR ODEN
Durant said Friday that he feels for Portland center Greg Oden, who will miss an entire season for the second time in his career because of knee issues.
â€œAll I could do was pray for him,â€ said Durant, who fell into the Thunder franchise's lap with the No. 2 pick after the Blazers selected Oden first overall in 2007. â€œWhen I heard about it, I was shocked because he worked so hard to try to get back.
â€œI'm sure he'll be back. This is just a slight bump in the road. It happens. People go through adversity. He's going to be fine.â€
A TALE WORTH TELLING
James Harden received his first career start in place of Durant on Friday. And Thunder coach Scott Brooks said it would make for a great story Harden can one day tell his children.