Russell Westbrook banked in a half-court shot during a rough-and-tumble 27-point outing, Kevin Durant added 26 points and the Oklahoma City Thunder beat the Cleveland Cavaliers 106-91 on Sunday night.
Westbrook, a career 29-percent shooter from 3-point range, had made just 6 of 24 behind the arc to start the season and coach Scott Brooks suggested before the game that he needed to start making more if he was going to keep taking so many.
Westbrook may have temporarily extinguished that talk with a few well-timed connections, the first one coming as he ran along the sideline and banked in a desperation shot at the end of the third quarter.
Kyrie Irving led the Cavs with 20 points. Alonzo Gee chipped in 18 points and reserve Daniel Gibson scored 16.
Westbrook’s shooting spree came at a time when he’d normally be on the bench. Brooks kept him out for the closing stretch of the third quarter even though he hadn’t scored since halftime, and Westbrook rewarded him with a jumper in the lane and a 3-pointer to help fend off a charge led by Irving.
Irving hit back-to-back 3-pointers after Oklahoma City had taken a 63-50 lead midway through the third quarter and his driving layups on consecutive possessions got Cleveland within 67-65 with 3:42 to go in the period.
The Thunder never relinquished the lead, though, with Kendrick Perkins scoring inside on a basket interference call before Durant’s two-handed slam. Then Westbrook took over.
Kevin Martin led Oklahoma City’s reserves with 16 points and Serge Ibaka had 14 points and seven blocks. Westbrook had 10 assists but also eight turnovers.
Cavs coach Byron Scott mixed up his rotation, going with Jon Leuer and Omri Casspi while holding out C.J. Miles. It didn’t make much of a difference, although Cleveland held a 29-22 edge in bench scoring.