By Michael Kinney
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — OKLAHOMA CITY -- Scott Brooks is a traditional coach. He has certain patterns and routines for his Oklahoma City team that rarely change from game to game.
But Brooks also knows when to ride a hot hand. With his team in need of a boost, he stuck with Russell Westbrook during a crucial stretch Sunday against Cleveland and it turned into a 106-91 victory at the Chesapeake Energy Arena.
Westbrook led all scorers with 27 points, to go along with 10 assists and six rebounds. But it was his timely baskets down the stretch that were the most critical for Oklahoma City (5-2).
“My gut was telling me to keep him in there,” Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks said. “I just felt that we needed his toughness in tonight’s game. And his 3-point shooting. He finally hit some 3-point shots. He’s worked on and he will continue to work on it. One was a lucky shot, but other than that, they are shots he can make.”
The Thunder had an 11-point halftime lead that was whittled down to six and the Cavs looked like they were going into the final period with momentum on their side. But Westbrook drained a halfcourt shot as time expired to push the lead back to nine points.
“That hurt,” Cavaliers coach Byron Scott said. “I kind of relayed the message that we had a foul to give. We wanted to take the foul once they caught it and started dribbling up the court. Boobie said he just thought Russell was going to throw up a bad shot. I think that kind of shifted the momentum.”
Westbrook wasn’t done. He came out in the fourth and hit consecutive 3-pointers to kick-start a Thunder blitz that Cleveland was unable to recover from.
“It hurt, it hurt,” Cleveland’s Daniel “Boobie” Gibson said. “But what hurt more was when we came out of the time-out, we didn’t bounce back and really let them guys get a lead. And when you have a closer like Kevin (Durant), it’s tough to come back from that.”
With Westbrook leading the way, the Thunder had five players score in double figures. Kevin Durant posted 26 points and eight rebounds while Kevin Martin added 16 points. As a team they had 20 assists.
“There’s no question that we are at our best offensively when we share the basketball,” Brooks said. “We’ve been doing it all year. Our assists numbers have been pretty good. There are going to be games when we are not as good and there will be games where we are even better.”
Irving has a team-high 20 points for the Cavaliers. But he was held scoreless in the fourth quarter. Gibson scored 16 off the bench.
The Cavs jumped out to a blistering start in the first quarter. Irving had his shot going early and got Westbrook into foul trouble in the process as they held a 17-11 advantage.
But Durant and Martin led the Thunder on a 13-4 run to end the quarter. That included a midrange jumper by Martin as the buzzer sounded to put Oklahoma City up 27-21.
“Our defense is a good trend to have,” Westbrook said. “Keeping teams under a certain amount of points per quarter is important and at the same time we are making shots.”
Martin, who came to Oklahoma City last month in the trade that sent James Harden to Houston, continues to show he can score from anywhere on the floor since coming to Oklahoma City from Houston. His shooting range has expanded even more playing alongside Durant and Westbrook.
“It is great,” Martin said. “It’s been a long time waiting playing on a team like this. It’s a great group of guys from the organization to the players. Opportunities like this you never know when you are going to get them so you have to take advantage of them.”
Michael KinneyFollow me @firstname.lastname@example.org
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