OKLAHOMA CITY -- As Russell Westbrook pummeled the Washington Wizards on Thursday for 46 points on 19-of-29 shooting, including 21 on 9-of-11 shooting in the fourth quarter in a 121-112 win, he did so thinking he was LeBron James' last selection in the (non-televised) All-Star draft.
Asked his thoughts about being selected by James, Westbrook started with a standard answer.
"That's cool, man, that's good, man, they finally got the teams figured out," he said. Then from his nearby locker, Carmelo Anthony yelled out, "Tell 'em how you really feel!"
Westbrook smiled and laughed.
"But I see I was the last pick on the list -- I was just trying to figure out how ..." Westbrook said, referring to a list tweeted out by James.
Informed it was just in alphabetical order, an incredulous Westbrook yelled back at Anthony, "See, I told you, man! Alphabetical order, man! Of course I was first!" Westbrook walked away laughing, continuing on with Anthony, "Of course! What you talking about?"
Also of note: On the list Westbrook saw, the name right in front of his? John Wall. If there's anything that defines the make-up and mentality of Westbrook, it's taking a perceived slight as being the last pick, and obliterating the next opponent in front of him.
"It was just alphabetical, it was alphabetical," Paul George said with a subtle grin. "LeBron loves Russ, so I doubt he'd pick Russ last."
Westbrook was the engine driving the Thunder to a sixth straight win, taking over as both George (18 points on 6-of-19 shooting) and Anthony (13 points on 4-of-11) struggled through off shooting nights. Westbrook took over, attacking the basket and dropping pull-up midrange jumpers at will.
"Sometimes you get caught staring a little bit and I've gotta remind myself, 'I am on a team with somebody else that can do that,'" Anthony said of Westbrook. "Do some of the things that you've been doing or you're capable of doing or you've been doing throughout your whole career. For me to be on the same side as that and not have to go after it every night and just kind of take what the other team is giving us, it's a beauty to watch. Especially when it's working, when it's clicking, especially now when we're winning games."
Westbrook was electrifying, punctuating his night with a vintage highlight dunk in the fourth quarter.
"It was a nice little dunk," Westbrook said.
Thunder coach Billy Donovan said despite 121 points, he didn't feel like it was an especially good offensive game for the Thunder, noting some off shooting and stagnation in their sets. But that's the blessing of a player the caliber of Westbrook, who can go get nearly half a hundred points when the team isn't clicking.
"I just read the game, honestly," Westbrook said. "Like always, I read the game. If it's time for me to take over, that's what I'll do."
A lot of the focus for the Thunder against the Wizards was to play faster, with Westbrook urging his teammates in timeouts to get into their offense with more pace. It's where Westbrook is at his best, turning defense into offense, and with the Thunder forcing 23 turnovers, it gave Westbrook plenty of opportunity.
"I'm not going up there," Anthony said of keeping up with Westbrook on the break. "If he's ahead of the ball, and it's him and somebody else, he can have it. I'm not running with him. Sometimes it's hard to keep up with him. Especially when he gets it going like that and he's coming full speed, it's very hard to keep up with him. Him one-on-one in the open court like that? I put my money on him every time."
Since starting the season 8-12, the Thunder have trended up, going 20-8 since Dec. 1. And in games in which their typical starting five have been available in that period, they're 15-0. Much of that turnaround has been in the Thunder sticking with the process of learning each other, but also that Westbrook has regained his dominant MVP-level form, as he showcased against the Wizards.
"He's one of the best players in the league," said Westbrook's former coach, Scott Brooks. "And it's going to be like that for the next number of years."