By Michael Kinney
The Norman Transcript
OKLAHOMA CITY — Russell Westbrook didn’t have the night he wanted in Oklahoma City’s season opener Thursday. The All-star guard committed two mistakes down the stretch that led to a defeat.
Friday was a different story. Westbrook poured in 32 points on 13-of-24 shooting to go along with six assists and five rebounds. It was the type of game his coach and teammates expected from him as Oklahomoa City defeated Portland 106-92 at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
“I knew he would respond,” Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks said. “That’s what he does. He’s a winner. He plays the game the right way. He’s as tough as they come.”
The Trail Blazers (1-1) were hoping to build off their season-opening win over the L.A. Lakers by knocking off the Thunder at home. But they shot only 36 percent from the field and allowed Oklahoma City (1-1) to hit a blistering 50.7 percent of its shots.
“Just couldn’t get key stops,” Portland’s LaMarcus Aldridge said. “We always guard their initial action pretty well. Then late in the shot clock when we had one on one coverage, we had some big breakdowns. We just didn’t shoot well tonight.”
It was the Thunder that showcased their defense in the fourth quarter to pull out the win. After Portland closed the game to 80-75 with 8 minutes left in the game, Oklahoma City turned a five-point advantage to double digits with three minutes remaining and the arena started to clear out.
“Defense was the key,” Westbrook said. “I think we did a good job of holding LaMarcus Aldridge down a little bit towards the end of the game, get some stops and got out on break.”
In his first game in front at home since being traded to Oklahoma City, Martin showed fans they may not have to worry about the loss of James Harden. He was 3-of-3 from behind the arc and knocked in 19 points.
“He is doing it on the fly,” Brooks said. “We’ve definitely given him a speedy course of what we do and how we like to do it. But we have a good group of guys who are willing to show him and teach him and expedite that learning curve. He knows how to play.”
While Durant had only 23 points, which is low for the three-time scoring champion, he did haul in 17 rebounds, one off his career high of 18. That’s 35 rebounds in two games.
“I think Kevin has a chance to lead the team in rebounds,” Brooks said. “He can average 11 to 12 rebounds a game. He had 10 by halftime tonight.”
The Blazers had four players score in double figures, led by rookie Damian Lillard. He posted 21 points and handed out seven assists in a matchup with Westbrook. Aldridge scored 22 in the loss.
“The game is funny,” Aldridge said. “You might have an advantage, but if guys aren’t making shots, you can’t take advantage of it. Tonight we all had great looks, especially myself. We didn’t make shots. I didn’t make shots. I have to definitely be better than this. I will be.”
Michael KinneyFollow me @firstname.lastname@example.org
For local news and more, subscribe to The Norman Transcript Smart Edition, or our print edition.