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News » SUNS 110, THUNDER 102


Russell Westbrook kept Oklahoma City in Monday night's game and played the Thunder out of its 110-102 loss to the Phoenix Suns, characterizing the meaning of rookie growing pains before a sold out crowd of 19,163 inside the Ford Center.

Westbrook finished with a career-high 31 points on 12 of 16 shooting to go with five assists and three rebounds. But it was Westbrook's game-high six turnovers, three of them in the final six minutes, that defined his night and can only be chalked up as another step in his development.

"Russell is going to get better every game, every month, every year," said Thunder coach Scott Brooks, whose team fell to 3-29. "But it's important that he understands that we can't turn the ball over. That's the responsibility of the point guard. But he's going to continue to work on making good decisions."

The most costly of Westbrook's three fourth-quarter turnovers came with 2:10 remaining after the Thunder had narrowed Phoenix's one-time 15-point lead to eight. The Suns ultimately scored on a Shaquille O'Neal layup to push the lead back to double digits with 1:48 left.

Two possessions later, O'Neal blocked a shot attempt by Westbrook with 59.8 seconds remaining to preserve the Suns' 10-point cushion.

For Westbrook, it was a horrific ending to a performance that began with him scoring 15 points in the first quarter. Miami's Michael Beasley, Memphis' O.J. Mayo and Marc Gasol, and Charlotte's D.J. Augustin are the only other rookies to score at least 15 points in a quarter this season.

Westbrook was so hot early that his first-quarter point total bested the entire Suns team when the Thunder held its biggest lead at 23-13 with 6:15 remaining in the first period. Westbrook started the game 6-for-7 from the field, including 3-for-3 from behind the arc.

"His development is making the simple play, taking care of the Basketball and knowing time and score," Brooks said. "He has the ability to get to the lane quickly and finish above the rim, and that's an incredible asset. If we work on the other parts of it, he will develop into a very, very good point guard."

On this night, however, it was Westbrook's late-game blunders that contributed to eight fourth-quarter turnovers by the Thunder and 15 for the game. The Suns converted the giveaways into 20 points.

"We made some mistakes in the fourth quarter that cost us from getting back in the game," said Thunder forward Jeff Green, who recorded his fourth double-double this season with 22 points and 11 rebounds. "We just have to learn from this and regroup and get back at it tomorrow."

O'Neal scored a team-high 28 points with 12 rebounds to lead the Suns, who played the final three quarters without two-time MVP guard Steve Nash because of back spasms.

Kevin Durant added 18 points with eight rebounds but made just five of 17 shots as his 10-game streak of at least 22 points came to an end.

Author: Fox Sports
Author's Website:
Added: January 1, 2009


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