Carmelo Anthony: Thunder Need Russell Westbrook 'Playing, Not Trying to Defer'

Adam Wells@adamwells1985Featured ColumnistDecember 28, 2017

Oklahoma City Thunder's Russell Westbrook (0) receives a high-five from teammate Carmelo Anthony (7) after scoring three-point basket against the Utah Jazz in the second half during an NBA basketball game Saturday, Dec. 23, 2017, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
Rick Bowmer/Associated Press

Carmelo Anthony believes the biggest change for the Oklahoma City Thunder during their recent streak of 12 wins in 15 games is Russell Westbrook getting back to playing his style of basketball.

Speaking to reporters after the Thunder's 124-107 win over the Toronto Raptors on Wednesday, their sixth straight victory, Anthony singled out Westbrook's performance as the key. 

"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, via ESPN's Royce Young

Westbrook's numbers certainly support Anthony's theory. The reigning NBA MVP is averaging 30 points, 10.3 assists and 8.3 rebounds and is shooting 56.3 percent during Oklahoma City's six-game winning streak. 

With Anthony and Paul George getting acclimated to their new surroundings and to playing alongside Westbrook, it took longer than expected for the Thunder to hit their stride. They were 8-12 after a Nov. 29 loss to the Orlando Magic

Following their win over the Raptors on Wednesday, the Thunder moved to a season-high five games over .500 (20-15) and are two games behind the Minnesota Timberwolves for first place in the Northwest Division.