Thunder Hang Tough With Westbrook Out Until All-Star Break

Thunder Hang Tough With Westbrook Out Until All-Star Break

It was the one bit of news no Thunder fan wanted to hear, yet it happened anyway. Russell Westbrook’s knee injury is the gift that keeps on giving … him extra time off.

I think we all made the same face as Kevin Durant did here when we heard the news of Westbrook's surgery. Durant ended his night with 34 points and 12 rebounds.

I think we all had the same look on our faces as Kevin Durant did here when we heard the news of Westbrook’s surgery. Durant ended his night with 34 points and 12 rebounds.

Apparently Westbrook keeps having problems with “water on the knee”, which is the common term for knee effusion. Knee effusion is the medical condition of having your knee swell or inflame due to excess synovial fluid. When this occurs in other moving joints, it’s referred to as hydrarthrosis. I’m not sure if there was any pain involved, but the swelling apparently has Westbrook concerned enough to opt for a third surgery.

I guess Westbrook will have to get used to his new role as bench chearleader. Here Durant shows bench cheerleading done right.

I guess Westbrook will have to get used to his new role as bench cheerleader. Here, Durant gives an example of bench cheerleading done right.

It’s obvious why Thunder fans are concerned. Westbrook’s contributions to the team are significant. The worst beating the Thunder took all year happened Nov. 1st, when the Timberwolves laid down a 100-81 beating in Minnesota. This was the last game Westbrook was out due to a surgical procedure performed in early October. With Westbrook out, you already know the Bobcats were looking to take advantage. And it’s not like the Bobcats are a sub-par squad either. Coming into this contest, they were merely one game shy of .500.

Kevin Durant attempts to drive around Anthony Tolliver as Kendrick Perkins sets the pick. Durant finished with 34 points and 12 rebounds. Perkins even pulled down 10 boards last night.

Durant attempts to drive around Anthony Tolliver as Kendrick Perkins sets the pick. Perkins decided he wanted to be a major contributor last night, pulling down 10 boards.

They kept it close too. The 1st quarter saw 2 ties and 2 lead changes. The largest lead for either team was the Thunder’s 6.

Thabo Sefolosha attempts to score, only to find Gerald Henderson's smothering defense in his way. Sefolosha finished with 10 points.  Henderson added 14 points for the Bobcats.

Thabo Sefolosha attempts to score, only to find Gerald Henderson’s smothering defense in his way. Sefolosha finished with 10 points. Henderson added 14 points for the Bobcats.

The 2nd quarter saw the Bobcats reach a 6-point lead as well, but at halftime, 6 still stood as the largest lead of the game for either team.

Josh McRoberts attempts the jam, and runs into a Serge Ibaka block instead. Ibaka finished with 12 points, while McRoberts posted 13 for the Bobcats.

Josh McRoberts attempts the jam, and runs into a Serge Ibaka block instead. Ibaka finished with 12 points, while McRoberts posted 13 for the Bobcats.

The 3rd quarter saw a bit of Thunder pull-away, as a 10-3 run to start the 3rd quarter extended the Thunder lead to 13 (52-39). The Bobcats, however, had no intentions of rolling over and playing dead. They spent the rest of the 3rd chipping away at the Thunder lead to the point where the Thunder were only enjoying a 2-point advantage (62-60) going into the final quarter.

Serge Ibaka attempts to shoot over Al Jefferson. Ibaka finished with 12 points, while Jefferson notched a 16-point 11-rebound double-double.

Ibaka attempts to shoot over Al Jefferson. Jefferson finished with a 16-point 11-rebound double-double.

You certainly have to give the Bobcats an A for effort. They even managed to tie the game at 62-all with 10:49 to play in the game. You also have to give the Thunder an A for their ability to keep their composure. This isn’t the first double-digit lead they’ve squandered this year, and their ability to win after blowing a big lead is about 50/50. That means that while they escape some games with wins, nearly the entirety of this year’s losses have come after blowing massive leads.

Kevin Durant shoots over Anthony Tolliver and Kemba Walker. Durant finished with a 34-point 12-rebound double-double. Walker ended his night with 18 points.

Durant shoots over Tolliver and Kemba Walker. Walker ended his night with 18 points.

In this game, a just over four-minute span between 5:35 and 1:33 saw Kevin Durant practically hold off the Bobcats on his own. In a one-possession game, with the score 76-74, Durant drains a 3-ball to hold them off. After a Gerald Henderson driving reverse lay-up brings the Bobcats back to within 3 (79-76), Durant drains another 3-ball to back them off, then adds 2 with 2:16 to play. Henderson drained another jumper to pull the Bobcats back within 6 (84-78), but Durant answered back at the other end, extending the Thunder lead to 8 with just over a minute-and-a-half remaining.  While the Bobcats were able to pull within 1 (86-85) with 14.8 seconds to play, Reggie Jackson and Thabo Sefolosha free throws sealed the deal, and the Thunder escaped Time Warner Cable Arena with an 89-85 victory. This win improves the Thunder to 24-5, while dropping the Bobcats to 14-16.

Reggie Jackson finishes the nasty dunk. Jackson posted 10 points in his new starting role.

Reggie Jackson finishes the nasty dunk. Jackson posted 10 points in his new starting role.

The good news for the Thunder last night is that every starter managed to double in at least one stat category. And even though Jackson has to replace Westbrook at the starting PG position, Jeremy Lamb makes sure the Thunder log their bench points. Durant became the double-double man in Westbrook’s absence, logging 34 points and 12 rebounds. Serge Ibaka and Sefolosha added 12 points apiece, while Jackson and Lamb threw down 10 apiece. Kendrick Perkins obviously didn’t want to be left out of the action. He terrorized the boards last night, pulling down 10 rebounds.

Jeremy Lamb attempts to finish the lay-up as Ben Gordon defends. Lamb dropped 10 from the Thunder bench.

Jeremy Lamb attempts to finish the lay-up as Ben Gordon defends. Lamb dropped 10 from the Thunder bench.

As close as this game was, you know a few Bobcats managed to pad their stats. Al Jefferson was the Bobcats’ double-double beast last night, dropping 16 points and grabbing 11 boards. Kemba Walker led all Bobcats scorers with 18, while Henderson posted 14, and Josh McRoberts contributed 13.

Al Jefferson with the pull-up jumper. Jefferson finished with a 16-point, 11-rebound performance.

Al Jefferson with the pull-up jumper.

Now the Thunder head back home to greet an old familiar face, as they will be hosting James Harden and the Rockets tomorrow night. Tip-off is scheduled for 6pm CST, and will be brought to you via Fox Sports Oklahoma, WWLS The Sports Animal, and NBA TV.

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