It took them about 35 games, but it seems like the OKC Thunder have finally figured out this winning thing. And now their coach and Carmelo Anthony and stats back it up – Russell Westbrook was the problem, struggling to fit his game alongside that of Anthony and Paul George.
But now that Westbrook has figured it out, Oklahoma City has won 12 of 15 and surged to 5th in the West.
Billy Donovan on Westbrook’s changes: “He’s taken really good shots. He’s getting to his spots on the floor. He is really confident in those shots, and I think he missed a lot of those shots early in the year, and I do think a lot of that had to do with him trying to incorporate these other guys and thinking less of himself. But there’s no question he’s the catalyst to our team, both offensively and defensively.”
Carmelo Anthony on Westbrook’s changes: “I think the fact that Russ is just playing — not trying to defer to anybody, to any one of us — just playing his game and letting us play off him … I think he’s much more effective by doing that rather than deferring to myself or Paul. We know what we bring to the game. We understand it. We accept it. And by that, he’s able to just play his game, relax and do what he does best. We need that. We need that Russ out there. Not the one who defers to us.”
Everyone wanted to blame Donovan or Melo earlier this season, but it was Russ who had to figure it out. And he has.
Westbrook has changed his game. He was jacking three-pointers at an alarming rate earlier this season (5.6 per game through the first 20 games), and he’s downshifted to 1.7 during the team’s hot streak.
Back-to-back home wins over Houston and Toronto were impressive. But there is a potentially challenging road stretch coming up (six of nine on the road, though mostly against bottom-feeders, except Minnesota and Cleveland). The February schedule, when the Thunder should be peaking, starts with five of seven games on National TV.
Except the Thunder bandwagon to be full by then.