(The Sports Xchange) - Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook overcame an ankle issue in the first quarter to score a triple double in a 102-85 victory over the winless Philadelphia 76ers on Friday.
It was a second triple-double of the season for Westbrook, who recorded 21 points, a career-high 17 rebounds and 11 assists to cover for the absence of leading scorer Kevin Durant, who missed the first of an expected five games with a strained hamstring.
Thunder coach Billy Donovan said he had come close to pulling Westbrook early.
“I said ‘Do you want to come out?’ and he kind of nodded and then when I went to put someone in, he said ‘No, no, I’m fine’,” Donovan said. “After that, I didn’t ask him any more about it.”
Visiting Philadelphia (0-9) took the game to Oklahoma City, jumping out to a 24-18 lead after the first quarter as forwards Nerlens Noel and Christian Wood each scored six points.
The Thunder grabbed the lead for good midway through the second quarter with an 8-0 run. Forward Nick Collison finished the spurt with a tip-in to give Oklahoma City its biggest advantage of the half at 39-32.
The Thunder led by four at halftime, but the Sixers refused to fold, closing the gap every time Oklahoma City threatened to pull away.
Philadelphia’s last charge brought the Sixers within 62-61 before Westbrook took over. He led the Thunder on a 9-0 run to end the third quarter, scoring three straight buckets, including one on a spectacular steal and dunk.
That helped the Thunder (6-3) end the third quarter with a 71-61 advantage, and they went on to wrap up their third straight win and 12th in a row over Philadelphia.
Donovan was most impressed with Westbrook’s work on the defensive boards, which sparked the Thunder to 24 fast-break points.
“He created some offensive rebounds, but the defensive rebounds enabled us to get on the fast break and run and that was a positive,” Donovan said.
Westbrook said it was something he had been working on.
“I learned over the summer whenever I rebound and start the break it’s better for our team and it gives the opposing team problems when I am able to do that and push the break,” Westbrook said. “That leads to easy points.”
Guard Anthony Morrow, starting in place of Durant, scored eight of his 12 points in the first quarter. Guard Dion Waiters added 14 points and forward Enes Kanter came off the bench to contribute 13 points and eight rebounds.
Wood topped the Sixers with 15 points, and Noel had 13 points and 11 boards.
Compiled by Patrick Johnston