With an emphatic 124-107 win over the Toronto Raptors on Wednesday, the Oklahoma City Thunder have won six straight games and 12 of their past 15. They've turned around an 8-12 start to move to 20-15, good for fifth in the West and only a couple of games back of fourth. At the heart of their long-awaited transformation to an apparently good team has been the reigning MVP, Russell Westbrook, who plastered the Raptors for 30 points, eight rebounds and 13 assists, and is averaging 30 points per game on 56 percent shooting during their win streak. Both Carmelo Anthony and Paul George talked early in the season about wanting Westbrook to be himself and fitting in alongside that, but after some bumps in the road, Westbrook has begun to sort out how that should look. As Anthony said, the Thunder fully understand Westbrook is the engine and elevates everyone else. "I think the fact that Russ is just playing -- not trying to defer to anybody, to any one of us -- just playing his game and letting us play off him ... I think he's much more effective by doing that rather than deferring to myself or Paul," Anthony said. "We know what we bring to the game. We understand it. We accept it. And by that, he's able to just play his game, relax and do what he does best. We need that. We need that Russ out there. Not the one who defers to us. Let us figure it out." In November, Westbrook's shots, scoring and usage rate were all down, but as he has reacted to what his role should be within the context of this team, all three have come up, coinciding with the Thunder playing better.
Melo: Westbrook 'not trying to defer to anybody' is the key to OKC's success
ESPN | Dec 28