Shootaround (March 10) — Russell Westbrook gets Oklahoma City Thunder back on track –

During the four-game skid, Westbrook was a scoring maniac, averaging 45 points, trying to use his legendary competitive spirit to will the Thunder to wins. There was an overall lack of cohesion, though, and while Westbrook’s individual play was remarkable, the team as a whole wasn’t functioning well. The four straight losses wasn’t the only streak, either: Westbrook hadn’t had a triple-double in a week.

That changed on Thursday against the San Antonio Spurs, with Westbrook producing one of his best overall performances of the season, notching his 31st triple-double with 23 points, 13 rebounds and 13 assists in 35 minutes as the Thunder won 102-92.

This season, the Thunder are 25-6 when Westbrook records a triple-double, and 11-23 when he doesn’t. It’s an eyebrow-raising stat that suggests … something.

The most important element probably is the assists. When Westbrook has 10 or more, the Thunder are 28-9, but 8-20 when he doesn’t. In Westbrook’s six highest-scoring games, the Thunder are 1-5. When he shoots 30 or more times, they’re 4-8, but when he takes between 20 and 24 shots, they’re 16-6. It seems simple: When Westbrook balances his game and distributes more and scores less, the Thunder are at their best.

Where Westbrook’s responsibility falls is in trying to help the pieces around him produce at a high level each night. He can’t make Doug McDermott make shots, or make Steven Adams rebound. But he can keep his team engaged, and do his part to utilize the roster around him. And when he does, the Thunder quickly become a competent, solid team.

Thursday was Westbrook at the peak of his powers, using every tool in the belt to carve apart the Spurs. When he plays that way, he has a look of being possibly the best player in the world. It’s hard to consistently replicate because it requires a synergy from his teammates for that to happen. The Thunder always have played to their potential when Westbrook manages more than takes over, but there have been plenty of games this season when he has rescued them with individual heroics. He’s not perfect, and he often makes bad choices. But Westbrook is always willing to try, for better or worse.

Shootaround (March 10) — Russell Westbrook gets Oklahoma City Thunder back on track –