Life without Russell Westbrook may not be ideal for the Oklahoma City Thunder, but they still performed quite well in defeating the Charlotte Bobcats, 89-85, on Friday.
Kevin Durant led the way for OKC with 34 points, 12 rebounds, and 6 assists in 40 minutes, but it was the Thunder’s defense that really keyed the victory. That defense held the Bobcats (playing at home, no less) to just 37.5% shooting from the field, and they also won the battle of the glass against the very physical Charlotte team by a 48-43 margin.
In addition to Durant’s excellence (as usual), Serge Ibaka and Jeremy Lamb had productive games for the Thunder. Ibaka had a near double-double with 12 points (on 6 for 8 shooting), 9 rebounds, and 3 blocks, while Lamb added 10 points in just 24 minutes off the bench. If there was a negative to this one, though, it was the ugly shooting night of Reggie Jackson, who is going to be charged with picking up the significant slack left by Westbrook.
Jackson shot just 4 of 19 from the field against the stingy Bobcats defense, scoring only 10 points despite his ball-dominant activity, but for OKC’s sake, they will hope that he fares much better. For me, Jackson is certainly up to the challenge, having played incredibly well in limited time this season, but playing 30+ minutes a night for a title contender is an entirely different beast, and he’ll be forced to step things up.
The Thunder won’t have things quite this easy for the next 20+ games without Westbrook, but this is a good start.