Russell Westbrook put his meniscus to the test in the final minute of Oklahoma City's 115-113 win over Denver on Monday, crossing up J.J. Hickson so viciously that the Nuggets center had to brace himself so that he wouldn't fall to the court.
With 30 seconds remaining and the Thunder leading by two, Westbrook began working against Randy Foye outside the three-point arc. Using a light screen from Serge Ibaka, Westbrook circled towards the middle of the court from the right angle before quickly crossing over from left to right to get back to his dominant hand for a run at the hoop.
Hickson shadowed Westbrook to the middle but lost his footing on the crossover, stumbling in the paint as he attemped to recover to contest the shot. That split-second stagger was all Westbrook needed to get to the rim and kiss in a lay-up in off the glass.
Oklahoma City has enjoyed having Westbrook back from his knee surgery for eight games now. Although his numbers (22.8 points, 5.3 rebounds, 4.1 assists, 42 percent shooting) are down somewhat from last season (23.2 points, 5.2 rebounds, 7.4 assists, 44 percent shooting), there's been no drastic decline statistically or confidence-wise. The Thunder have to be thrilled, given that they are now 6-2 with Westbrook, who was initially expected to be out until December. The only two losses came against top-shelf Western Conference teams (the Clippers and warriors) on a road/road back-to-back.
Westbrook finished with 30 points (on 10-for-25 shooting), 12 rebounds and seven assists, although he committed a near-disastrous foul in the game's closing seconds that gave Denver a chance to win at the buzzer. Kevin Durant led the Thunder with a game-high 38 points (on 11-for-27 shooting), eight rebounds and six assists.
Ty Lawson led the Nuggets with 29 points (on 9-for-17 shooting), eight assists and four rebounds.
Oklahoma City improved to 7-3 with the win; Denver dropped to 4-6 with the loss.Video via YouTube user NBA