SAN ANTONIO — Sometimes when the Oklahoma City Thunder lose, point guard Russell Westbrook gets ripped for shooting too much, for not passing the ball to Kevin Durant, for playing too recklessly.
Durant didn’t play Thursday, and Westbrook’s approach worked well for the Thunder.
Moving from end to end with the acceleration of a Porsche, Westbrook scored 34 points, helping the Thunder defeat the San Antonio Spurs 114-106.
Westbrook also passed for 11 assists.
“He’s a force,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. “He takes a couple of bad shots, no question, but I like what he does. He puts a lot of pressure on the defense.”
Westbrook hit five of 15 shots in the first half but nine of 13 in the second. Either way, he doesn’t change.
“Just staying in attack mode regardless of what’s going on,” said Westbrook, sitting in front of his locker with ice packs on both knees and his feet in a bucket of ice. “Like I’ve said before, and I’m going to keep saying, my job is to continue to attack.”
Somebody suggested to Westbrook that his game management was viewed in a different light when the Thunder wins.
“I ain’t gonna answer that … but yeah, man, I guess,” Westbrook said, laughing.
Fans in San Antonio, and a national television audience, were denied a marquee matchup of small forwards when Durant and San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard sat due to injuries.
Leonard missed his fifth consecutive game with a torn ligament in his right hand.
“It’s a pain thing,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “He can’t move his hand. He can’t catch and dribble. Medically, they don’t think he can hurt it any more than it is hurt now. It’s a matter of when he can get use of the hand. It’s too stiff.”
Durant sat out a fourth game because of a sprained right ankle.
“He could not go if he wanted to go,” Brooks said, “but he’s improving every day.”
Westbrook wasn’t the only Thunder player who compensated for Durant’s absence. Forward Serge Ibaka scored 21 points, and center Steven Adams contributed 16 points and 15 rebounds, including seven offensive boards.
Oklahoma City (14-16) put together a 13-0 streak in the fourth quarter for a nine-point lead. Spurs guard Manu Ginobili cut the deficit to four with a 3-pointer with 2:34 remaining, but guard Anthony Morrow matched Ginobili with a 3-pointer, his second of the quarter. Morrow scored 15 points.
Forward Matt Bonner led the Spurs (18-12) with 17 points. Forward Tim Duncan scored 15, one more than center Tiago Splitter and guard Cory Joseph. Ginobili finished with 11 points and a season-best 13 assists. Spurs forward Boris Diaw sat out due to a fever with a game looming at New Orleans on Friday.
Oklahoma City took a 50-47 halftime lead by dominating one area: the offensive glass. The Thunder turned 13 offensive rebounds into 13 points. The Spurs grabbed three offensive boards and scored two points.
San Antonio limited Oklahoma City to three offensive rebounds and no second-chance points in the second half.
However, the Thunder shot 60 percent after the break, with Westbrook hitting five of six shots in the fourth quarter, when the Thunder scored 38 points.
“I don’t think the score was indicative of how badly we were beaten tonight,” Popovich said. “They were more physical, more focused. They wanted the basketball game, and I think we floated around as if we’re entitled.”
Which doesn’t work against Westbrook and the athletic Thunder.
“He competes hard every possession,” Ginobili said of Westbrook. “He brings it.”
NOTES: San Antonio G Patty Mills, who has yet to play after undergoing offseason shoulder surgery, was cleared for action by the team’s medical staff about three weeks ahead of earlier projections. He was not, however, approved for action by coach Gregg Popovich. “I always err on the side of caution,” Popovich said. “He’s getting close.” … Spurs G Marco Belinelli made his fourth start of the season, this time in place of injured F Kawhi Leonard. He scored seven points. … Thunder F Perry Jones remained in the starting lineup in place of F Kevin Durant for the fourth straight game despite going scoreless in two of the last three. He had 12 points in one of the games, and he added 14 on Thursday.
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