Russell Westbrook’s return was always going to be emotional but the match was made sweeter as the OKC Thunder annihilate the Rockets. Grades offer the details.
From the tip, Chesapeake Energy Arena was lit akin to bygone playoff matches. The OKC Thunder recognizing the relevance of this game beyond Russell Westbrook‘s return fed off the crowd early jumping out to an early 20-12 lead midway through the first.
By the end of the first quarter, OKC was ahead 37-21 registering their highest-scoring opening frame this season. For a club that struggles to get off to strong starts, this felt like a precursor to what would happen over the course of the game.
Westbrook was fired up and led his team in scoring with 18 at the half joined only by James Harden who got five of his 10 points at the charity stripe. Harden shot two for 12 and didn’t hit a 3-pointer until there were 26.2 seconds left in the second quarter. These were the only two Rockets who hit double figures in the first half.
Conversely, the Thunder had four players in double-digits at the half including Danilo Gallinari (16) who was a last minute addition to the lineup given he’d missed the past two outings. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (11) Dennis Schroder (12) and Steven Adams (11) joined him with the double-digit half time scoring.
While the Rockets came out of the lockers looking to switch up the momentum and did manage to score six consecutive points it didn’t matter. By the end of the third, it was the OKC Thunder who had extended their lead to a blistering 89-67. Harden was finally hitting (4 of 6) but he was the only other Rockets player to join Westbrook in double figures.
What stood out was the Thunder aggressive defense which was stellar in all areas of the floor be it transition, perimeter or in the paint.
There was so much to be happy about in this victory it truly was a statement win with the OKC Thunder winning 113-92. For what it’s worth that was a season-low for the Rockets and without double-teaming James Harden held him to 5 of 17 from the field, just five free throws and 17 points.
With that let’s look at the player grades from the huge win.