Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

Last night, the Oklahoma City Thunder strolled into Los Angeles and literally took care of business as they earned themselves a nine-point victory at the expense of the Lakers.

Going into the game, I had predicted a Purple and Gold win by a narrow margin while one of my friends in attendance with me figured OKC would blow out the home team. Turns out he was closer to reality than I was.

The Lakers dominated the first half with their interior scoring, rebounding and defense that locked down Kevin Durant.

Andrew Bynum was a terror on the interior as he routinely knocked back the God of War, Kendrick Perkins. Indeed, at times the Thunder center looked all but powerless against Bynum as he routinely established post-position and pushed him back into the lane for some scores.

The second half provided a much different proposition mind you. Indeed, the Thunder came out more aggressive in the second half and actually dominated the Lakers on the boards. All of the hustle plays seemed to go the way of OKC. Their interior defense was much better, as Perkins and Collison made an interesting adjustment when defending Bynum: they forced him to turn to his right when shooting the ball. Typically this would mean that he would have to shoot left-handed hook shots, but instead he settled for fall away jumpers. He was fouled on a few of them, but nonetheless, instead of taking shots from inside the paint, he was instead camped out shooting from the outside.

In addition, Kevin Durant spent much of the fourth quarter defending Pau Gasol, and Mike Brown never attacked him. It allowed the former Longhorn to conserve some kind of energy and also get going at the offensive end.

But the biggest reason the Thunder were victorious: Russell Westbrook.

On a night in which he shared the court with Kevin Durant, Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum, he was unequivocally the best player on the court.

The UCLA product directed traffic and tried to get his players into place against a tough Mike Brown defense that forced the Thunder out of their spots. Indeed, World Peace often forced KD to catch the ball much further out than he is accustomed to, which in turn made it tough for Oklahoma City to execute their offense.

Consequently, Westbrook called his number often in the first half, making a combination of jumpers and getting fouled on his way to the basket. It allowed OKC to remain within striking distance by halftime.

In the second half, Scott Brooks called for Durant to catch the ball a little more on the move where defenses couldn’t focus on him as much. As a result, he ended up with a few open shots near the basket but also attracted the defense his way and was able to make plays for others.

OKC was able to take the lead and put a stranglehold on the Lakers offense, but the home team consistently fought back in the second half. And every time they made a run, Westbrook was right there to respond.

The Oklahoma City Thunder scored 25 fast break points last night, and after watching the game, one might think that Westbrook scored all of them. Once he got into the open court, all he needed was two dribbles and then he would turn on the jets and race by everyone to get to the hoop to score or get fouled. His speed and quickness were unmatched in this contest, but his athleticism allowed him to get to the rim with relative ease and absorb the punishment as if it was nothing.

And yet, his on court brilliance wasn’t relegated to transition basketball, he shined quite brightly in the half court as well. He abused Ramon Sessions, Steve Blake and Metta World Peace both in the pick-and-roll and in isolation situations. It was quite obvious especially in the second half that they didn’t have a chance of guarding him, and he knew it.

The Thunder point guard had it going a little from long-range and thus took a few shots from 16-to-23 feet to keep the defense honest, but also as a form of heat check. He converted 5-of-11 shots from that distance, which helped him get closer to the basket when defenders pressed up on him. He was able to blow by the man guarding him and get into the lane but he was also able to take a few midrange shots.

It became quite obvious by the end of the third quarter that Westbrook was playing at a completely different gear than everybody else. He was faster, stronger and much more determined to get things done than just about every player on the court.

His final line: 36 points, six assists and two steals on 13-for-27 field goal shooting.

RW’s play prompted Jovan Buha of Clipperblog — who was at the game with me — to proclaim that he would probably make 1st team All-NBA. I thought about it and immediately countered that either Paul or Wade would make it before him, but then had to think about it again and came to the conclusion that he was probably right.

His play so far this season has been quite spectacular and watching the Russell Westbrook experience live is just that: quite an experience.

Questions or comments? Feel free to leave them in the comments section or you can contact me by email at [email protected].

One Response