WASHINGTON (AP) – Russell Westbrook’s Oklahoma City Thunder and John Wall’s Washington Wizards both got off to poor starts to the season.
Westbrook and Co. turned things around quickly. Wall’s Wizards have not.
The Thunder have gone from 0-4 to 4-4, picking up their fourth consecutive victory by beating the struggling, booed-at-home Wizards 134-111 behind Westbrook’s 23 points and 12 assists Friday night.
The outcome was decided in the second quarter, when OKC outscored Washington 44-20, a lopsided result Wizards coach Scott Brooks called “ridiculous.”
“We just pride ourselves on defense, starting with myself and going down the line. That’s our objective – especially in my mind – is to be the best defensive team in the league, just disrupt the game,” said Westbrook, who sat out the final period. “That’s the biggest key for us every night. I’m going to continue to pride myself on that starting with myself: Defend at a high level and go on down the line.”
The Wizards wish they could play well at that end of the court.
Even though OKC was the team playing on the second night of a back-to-back, it looked a lot fresher and more active than Washington, which was coming off a two-day break and finally got to see new center Dwight Howard make his debut.
After missing all of training camp, every exhibition game and the first seven regular-season games with a sore backside, Howard started and immediately appeared to have an impact, scoring 13 first-quarter points. But soon enough, Washington got into its usual bad habits, the ones that have led to loss after loss so far: ineffective defense and low-effort rebounding.
“They got layups after layups, wide-open 3s,” Wall said. “They did whatever they wanted.”
The Wizards have lost five games in a row to drop to 1-7, and spectators let the players hear their displeasure in the second quarter, jeering when OKC went ahead 61-40 on Jerami Grant’s dunk on a pass from Westbrook. When Paul George made his third straight 3 attempt, a night after going 0 for 10 from beyond the arc, it made the halftime score 79-50, equaling the Thunder’s record for most points in a half.
An Oklahoma City team averaging 109 points this season was already at 110 after three quarters.
George wound up with 17 points to surpass 10,000 for his career, and Grant scored 22.
Howard had 20 points on 7-of-8 shooting, three rebounds and four fouls in 23 minutes. When he was out of the game, he either laid down on his stomach on the sideline or stood.
Bradley Beal scored 27 points, and Wall had 19 points and nine assists, but Washington’s pair of All-Star guards also combined for 12 turnovers.
The Thunder went up by as many as 33 points in the third quarter and shot 57 percent for the game. They outrebounded the Wizards 38-30.
None of that should come as a surprise, given that Washington began the night allowing an NBA-worst 122.4 points per game and averaging only 41.3 rebounds, 27th in the 30-club league.
“I refuse,” Beal said, “to let the ship sink.”
Thunder: Came in shooting 27 percent on 3s, but hit 47 percent – 15 for 32 – against Washington. … George has complained of a nerve issue with his left foot, and coach Billy Donovan said George thinks it affects his defense. “There’s times where he wishes he could push off a little bit better and move a little bit better – more to the extreme that he’s capable of doing,” Donovan said. “I think he still feels he’s hindered by it.”
Wizards: Otto Porter Jr. played with a bruised big left toe and scored nine points in only 16 minutes. … Brooks on Ian Mahinmi, who started at center while Howard was sidelined but now returns to a backup role: “His minutes are going to shrink quite a bit, but he has to be ready whenever he’s called on.”
Thunder: Host the Pelicans on Monday.
Wizards: Host the Knicks on Sunday.
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