It is by now well established that Russell Westbrook has no chill. The Oklahoma City Thunder superstar expends all possible energy on every play (at the offensive end, at least), regularly taking on multiple defenders with no apparent consideration of what constitutes a sensible play. Sometimes he goes too hard, but the effort and desire are always there.
All those qualities were on display in Wednesday night’s contest against the Houston Rockets and especially on this game-deciding dagger dunk on Clint Capela with five seconds left in regulation:
The dunk is impressive on its own, but its context in OKC’s 105-103 win gave it the character of a bolt of lightning. An up-and-down, defense-averse game devolved considerably in the fourth quarter as both teams struggled to make shots. The Thunder accounted for all nine points scored between the 6:26 mark and the final few seconds of regulation, and rookie wing Alex Abrines’s questionable decision to attempt a lay-up with five seconds left nearly gave the Rockets the ball back with a chance to tie.
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Instead, Westbrook answered with this dunk, doubling down on Abrines’s questionable move by proving that it’s only a bad shot if you don’t make it. The bucket capped another big night for Westbrook, who finished with a game-high 30 points (9-of-20 FG and 10-of-11 FT), nine assists, seven rebounds, and six turnovers.
However, a game billed as a matchup between former teammates and current solo superstars Westbrook and James Harden ended up being defined more by the performances of their supporting casts. Harden posted his now-standard 13 assists but struggled to 13 inefficient points (4-of-16 FG) and six turnovers. The Rockets were fine through 42 minutes thanks to impressive scoring balance — all nine players who saw the court scored in the range of nine and 14 points. Unfortunately, they needed someone to make plays in the final minutes and got nothing, scoring their only points of the final 6:25 on a meaningless Eric Gordon three-pointer right before the buzzer.
Westbrook had only one teammate join him in double figures, but Victor Oladipo’s 29 points (12-of-18 FG, 5-of-7 3FG) were essential to the Thunder win. Oladipo has scored at least 20 points in just three other games this season, but he appears to be growing more comfortable playing next to a player who dominates the ball as much as Westbrook.
For now, though, there’s no question who’s in charge in OKC. It’s the guy who decides to finish a game off with a poster dunk when most other players would have gone conservative.
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