OKC’s Westbrook returns strong

The Associated PressNovember 4, 2013 

The Thunder’s Russell Westbrook warms up before his season debut Sunday against the Suns. Westbrook, who suffered a knee injury during the playoffs, started at point guard and had 21 points.

MARK D. SMITH/USA TODAY SPORTS

OKLAHOMA CITY — After a six-month layoff, Russell Westbrook looked a lot like his old self.

The All-Star point guard had 21 points and seven assists as the Oklahoma City Thunder — despite 2-of-18 shooting from 3-point range — beat the Phoenix Suns, 103-96, on Sunday night.

Kevin Durant had 33 points and 10 rebounds for the Thunder, which won its fifth consecutive home opener and defeated Phoenix (2-1) for the 11th time in a row. The Suns last beat Oklahoma City (2-1) in December 2010.

Westbrook was sidelined after first tearing the lateral meniscus in his right knee during the second game of the NBA playoffs, then having a medical setback. But he returned weeks ahead of schedule. He said before the game that he never thought it would take him that long to return.

After the game, Westbrook said he felt a little rusty, but he seemed satisfied with his effort.

“I just missed some easy ones, but that will come,” Westbrook said. “I’m able to do what I want. I could be better, but that’s all right. That’s expected. I’m not expected to come back and be bionic man. I’m just going to work my way through it.”

Thunder coach Scott Brooks was impressed by Westbrook’s outing.

“There are two things that (Westbrook) does at a high level,” Brooks said. “He wins. He’s a winner. The guy plays the game like it’s supposed to be played. It’s not always going to be perfect, but he plays with everything he has every single night. To me, that’s inspiring.

“The second thing is leadership. It’s taken him some time to get that. Now he is our leader.”

Brooks wasn’t as glowing about the team’s shooting.

“Obviously, we’ve got to shoot the ball much better,” he said. “We can’t continue to shoot that from the 3-point line. I don’t like to talk about it much, but it’s hard to hide 2-for-18. But I will say this — I believe in the guys taking shots. They’re getting good looks. They’re going to fall.”

Phoenix’s Eric Bledsoe scored 26 points and had a career-best 14 assists, but the Suns had 23 turnovers.

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