OKLAHOMA CITY — Tuesday night at Chesapeake Energy Arena may have passed for a typical Russell Westbrook evening.
He made 6 of 10 free throws and 5 of 14 shots. Thus, basically, his average from the free-throw line and slightly less accurate than average from the floor.
Also, he scored 16 points, dished 16 assists, grabbed 15 rebounds and was all over the minutes that completely changed the game in Oklahoma City’s favor.
Though Paul George was hearing “MVP” chants from the fans in the fourth quarter of a game in which he led all scorers with 39 points, Westbrook was nonetheless instrumental, delivering his seventh straight triple-double.
And, though it hardly seemed like it would be through the first half, the final result was a reasonably easy 132-122 Thunder victory over the Orlando Magic.
The victory was OKC’s eighth in nine games, with two more opportunities in front of it heading into the All-Star break: Memphis at home on Thursday and the Houston Rockets on the road on Saturday.
OKC’s recent propensity to give up a lot of points was in full effect through the first half, when the Thunder trailed by as many as 10 and hit intermission down 69-62.
The Thunder were then down 79-67 when Westbrook called for a timeout to maintain possession after Steven Adams had grabbed a loose ball.
Everything changed after that. Over the next 11:50 of clock time, the Thunder outscored the Magic 44 to 18 to lead 111-97 with 8:56 remaining. The Magic were not closer than five points the rest of the game.
Westbrook got it started, dishing four assists and grabbing five rebounds in 9 1/2 third-quarter minutes.
The OKC point guard’s assist totals have reached 14 or more in four straight games and six of seven.
“[He’s] the reason we’ve had one of the hottest months in Thunder history,” George said. “I cannot say enough the credit he deserves for our offense being at the level it’s at.”
Westbrook’s version of it was “Guys are just making shots, man.”
Thunder coach Billy Donovan said a little more.
“He is doing a great job and I think part of the reason we made such a big jump offensively has been him maintaining and keeping a pace in the game for 48 minutes,” he said. “It think the other part of it is, he is getting guys shots and he is generating offensive for a lot of guys.
“He is playing downhill when he gets in the paint. He is such a hard guy [to defend] the first 6 seconds [of the shot clock] because you have to make decisions.”
George scored his points without shooting well — 9 of 26, 6 of 15 from 3-point land — but did much of his damage at the free-throw line, where he made 15 of 16.
Dennis Schroder added 20 off the bench on 9 of 15 shooting. Jeremy Grand added 19, Adams 14 and Abdel Nader 11.
Eventually, the Thunder were good without the ball, too.
“I thought we really defended well in the second half,” Donovan said. “In particular, the 3-point line.”
Orlando fueled its first-half lead by making 7 of 15 3-point attempts. After the half, the Magic made just 4 of 22.
Terrence Ross led Orlando with 26 points off the bench. Evan Fournier added 25, Aaron Gordon 18 and Nikola Vucevic 17.
The Thunder are back to 15 games over .500 — 34-19 — and remain third in the Western Conference.
“We just stuck with it and kept playing our game,” Nader said.
Of course, it’s nice to have a catalyst.