Hours after the NBA trade deadline, the Oklahoma City Thunder welcomed a depleted Memphis Grizzlies team to the Chesapeake Energy Arena. After trading a few of their pieces away, notably their long-time staple Marc Gasol to the Toronto Raptors, they only suited up nine players.
After an uninspired first half, the Thunder turned the jets on in the third quarter and made the final score look like this was an easy win, 117-95.
The Thunder have found the recipe for success; Russell Westbrook distributing the ball is the key for OKC and will be even more vital to their success in the playoffs.
Westbrook recorded his 21st triple-double of the season and his eighth-straight, which passes Michael Jordan for the second-longest streak in NBA history and just one shy of Wilt Chamberlain when he recorded nine in a row back in 1968.
Without drawing this story out, the Thunder have gone (9-1) over the last 10 games and there’s no coincidence that during that stretch, Westbrook has recorded eight triple-doubles. The Thunder are at their best when Westbrook distributes the ball. They are even better when he does it efficiently and on Thursday night against the Grizzlies, he was exactly that.
Westbrook finished the game with 15 points and only one turnover. He’s a stat-padder, though, right?
Over this 10-game stretch, Westbrook has averaged 13.1 assists per game. Not bad at all. Also during this stretch, he’s averaged 19.1 points per game, which is significantly lower than his usual. Westbrook has sacrificed around five-to-six points per game for assists, which has resulted in more opportunities for other players, especially Paul George who has averaged 34 points per game on 47.7 percent shooting.
When Westbrook scores the ball it’s great, we’ve seen that proven multiple times but this year but with the talent that he has surrounding him, it’s best that he plays the role of a more traditional point guard and he’s finally realizing that just before the all-star break.
With that being said, the Thunder have improved to (35-19) on the season and are playing their best basketball of the season. The question is, are they peaking too early? Can they keep this momentum going after the all-star break?