NBA: Oklahoma Thunder spoil Russell Westbrook's return, routing Houston Rockets

Houston Rockets guard Russell Westbrook (in white) in action against Oklahoma City Thunder, on Jan 9, 2020.
Houston Rockets guard Russell Westbrook (in white) in action against Oklahoma City Thunder, on Jan 9, 2020.PHOTO: AP

(REUTERS) - Russell Westbrook scored 34 points in his return to Oklahoma City, but the Thunder controlled the game from early to beat the Rockets 113-92 Thursday (Jan 9) night.

Westbrook starred 11 seasons for the Thunder, helping Oklahoma City to nine playoff appearances and one NBA Finals, before being traded to the Rockets in the off-season.

That trade, which sent Chris Paul and four draft picks to the Thunder, was the second major swap in an off-season of rebuilding for Oklahoma City.

Less than a week before dealing Westbrook, the Thunder sent Paul George to the Los Angeles Clippers for second-year guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and veteran swingman Danilo Gallinari.

All of the players the Thunder received in those trades played big roles in Thursday's decisive win.

Gallinari led Oklahoma City with 23 points, Gilgeous-Alexander added 20 and Paul 18.

The Thunder won for the seventh time in eight games.

While with the Thunder, Westbrook made a habit of running across the court after being introduced, and gesturing toward the adoring crowd.

In his first game in Chesapeake Energy Arena as a visitor, Westbrook ran to the same corner after being introduced, raising his index finger high as the crowd gave him a lengthy ovation.

 

That ovation followed a video tribute by the Thunder to Westbrook's remarkable stint with Oklahoma City that included the 2016-17 Most Valuable Player award and three consecutive seasons averaging a triple-double.

But while the Thunder were welcoming to Westbrook before the game, they were plenty hostile once it got underway.

Oklahoma City scored 37 first-quarter points to lead by 16, and the game was never closer than double figures the rest of the way.

Westbrook was 14 of 26 from the floor but the Rockets' other star, James Harden, was just 5 of 17 from the floor and 2 of 9 from behind the 3-point line to finish with a season-low 17 points.

Houston was held under 100 points for just the second time this season.

The loss snapped a three-game winning streak for the Rockets.