The Oklahoma City Thunder started off their season against the Utah Jazz in a game they played without Russell Westbrook, and it was the same story last night as Westbrook sat out to rest. What was a close game in the first meeting quickly turned into a one-sided affair as the Thunder ran away with a 95-74 victory.
It was great to see the Thunder flourish without their star point guard. The coaches, owners and GM of the Thunder will have to carefully evaluate Westbrook after an early return from injury. It’s probably in their best interest not to overwork him, especially early in the year.
It will take more time until we see the explosiveness from Westbrook that we’re all accustomed to. His early season struggles serve as proof that he isn’t at full strength just yet. The decision to sit him may have been made in reflection of Derrick Rose‘s most recent season-ending injury. That’s enough to put a little fear into anyone who’s working their way back from a similar meniscus tear.
Even without Westbrook the Thunder played a very complete game. No player scored over 20 points or played over 30 minutes, but five players ended the night with double-figures. Jeremy Lamb had his second highest scoring game of the season with 15 points on 7-for-13 shooting while Kevin Durant finished with 19 points and nine rebounds. Serge Ibaka also had a great game, scoring 17 points, grabbing 11 rebounds and three blocks.
There’s no doubt within my mind that the Thunder will need Westbrook if they want to make a push toward the NBA Finals, but it’s very refreshing to know they can afford to rest him and still manage to win games in blowout fashion. However, I doubt they would have sat him if they’re were matched up against a tougher opponent. He should be back in OKC’s starting lineup come Wednesday against the San Antonio Spurs – who are also big in the business of resting valuable players for different reasons.