OKLAHOMA CITY — Russell Westbrook’s athletic prowess is unquestioned. The Oklahoma City Thunder star is considered one of the best athletes at the point guard position.
Philadelphia 76ers coach Brett Brown saw up close and personal what makes Westbrook such a difficult matchup when the Thunder decimated the Sixers 125-92 Tuesday at the Chesapeake Energy Arena.
“He is just physically so gifted,” Brown said. “He is so competitive. I say this respectfully, there’s an angry competitor that wills his way into doing stuff. I say that with the utmost respect. You saw those physical abilities with just a strong mind. It’s a powerful combination.”
In his sixth game back from injury, Westbrook racked up 13 points, 10 rebounds and 14 assists in only 20 minutes and 17 seconds of action for his eighth career triple-double. It was the second-fewest minutes any player ever needed to reach a triple-double, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
“It’s crazy,” Westbrook said. “I’m just trying to get my groove back. Blessed to be able to do that in such a short amount of time.”
Westbrook needed so few minutes because the 76ers (15-46) offered little resistance on the way to their 15th consecutive defeat.
Oklahoma City (46-15) held a 16-point lead at halftime and torched Philadelphia in the third to put the game away.
The 33-point margin was the largest of the season for the Thunder.
The only excitement came when Sixers guard Michael Carter-Williams began to talk trash to Westbrook. That only incited Westbrook to intensify his defense and attack even more on offense.
While Philadelphia focused on Westbrook, forward Kevin Durant lit up the rest of the team with another night of proficient shooting. Neither Durant nor Westbrook touched the court in the fourth quarter.
Durant hit 14 of 20 shots and scored 42 points, surpassing 40 for the 10th time this season. His only flaw was 12-for-18 foul shooting.
“He had 42 points,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. “If he would’ve made his free throws, he could’ve had 50. It’s his fault. He wants to win. He’s more looking at 46 wins than the 42 points he had tonight.”
Oklahoma City forward Serge Ibaka and guard Reggie Jackson each added 14 points, while second-year forward Perry Jones chipped in with 12 points, six rebounds and three assists.
Guard James Anderson paced the 76ers with 20 points, hitting six of 12 attempts from behind the arc. Center Byron Mullens came off the bench to score 15 points and grab six rebounds.
Carter-Williams ended the night with 14 points on 4-of-12 shooting. He doesn’t believe his back-and-forth with Westbrook took him out of his game.
“That’s just Russell,” Carter-Williams said. “You guys know how he is. That’s the way he plays, with a lot of intensity and emotion. I don’t think it took me out of my game at all. That type of attitude makes me want to play harder. I just try to use it as motivation.”
Forward Caron Butler made his debut with the Thunder late in the first quarter. Durant tried to find him right away, but the pass slipped through Butler’s hands. Butler ended up getting his first bucket on a jumper three minutes later. He finished with two points and five rebounds in 26 minutes.
The play of Jones sparked the Thunder to a 37-23 first-quarter advantage. The second-year pro posted eight points in the opening 12 minutes.
As the Sixers fell further and further behind, Brown became more and more animated. He picked up a technical foul midway through the second quarter and paced the sideline yelling at anyone who would listen.
The one bright spot for the 76ers was Anderson. The former Oklahoma State standout carried Philadelphia in the first half with 17 points, yet the Sixers still trailed 61-45 at halftime.
“They are one of the top teams in the league,” Anderson said. “We ran up against a well-organized and experienced team. It got the best of us tonight.”
NOTES: F Caron Butler suited up for the first time with Oklahoma City, wearing a No. 2 jersey. The biggest question he had to answer was: Where did he get the nickname Tuff Juice? “I had a fair share of injuries, one that kept me out of the Finals in 2011 with Dallas,” Butler said. “I ruptured my patellar tendon. That’s just one of the things that stuck with me through injuries or whatever. I always find a way to overcome it.” … Throughout the season, the 76ers were accused of tanking in order to get a high draft pick. While no club official has explained what is going on, coach Brett Brown’s comments about following Oklahoma City’s example could be seen in that light. “This is one of the main (franchises) that sort of becomes a natural association given the Kevin Durant ping-pong ball and the growth of the program,” Brown said. “When you start looking at the attrition of the program and how it was sort of naturally cleansed and weeded out and you look at what they have, it’s a really obvious example of what we aspire to grow to.”
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