Oklahoma City superstar scores 21 points on his unexpected early return to the court.
Russell Westbrook, who missed the entire pre-season and Oklahoma City’s first two games of the NBA campaign, scored 21 points in his return Sunday to spark the Thunder over Phoenix 103-96.
Westbrook tore the meniscus in his right knee in the second game of last year’s first-round playoff series between the Thunder and Houston.
The star guard underwent two operations to repair the damage and was expected to miss between four and six weeks of the regular season before team doctors cleared him to make his return against the visiting Suns.
Westbrook went 11-of-14 from the free throw line and passed out seven assists. He made four free throws in the last seconds to clinch Oklahoma City’s victory.
Thunder star Kevin Durant scored a game-high 33 points and pulled down 10 rebounds while Reggie Jackson, who started in place of Westbrook in the first two games, came off the bench to contribute 10 points and five assists.
Phoenix lost for the first time in three games and saw point guard Goran Dragic suffer a sprained ankle early in the second half.
Eric Bledsoe scored 26 points and passed off a career-high 14 assists for the Suns, who also had 21 points from Gerald Green and 19 from Channing Frye.
Durant sparked a 17-6 run that gave the Thunder a 90-85 lead. Green pulled Phoenix within 97-95 witha late 3-pointer but Westbrook sealed the triumph from the line.
A loose stitch last month had caused swelling and a setback in Westbrook’s recovery but he appeared to have the speed and explosiveness that made him a threat in past seasons.
“Russell Westbrook has gone through a methodical rehab process jointly created by our medical and performance teams and treating physicians,” Thunder general manager Sam Presti said.
“The process has been instrumental in getting Russell to this point and has included various physical and medical benchmarks. The final benchmark being unrestricted basketball activity.”
Westbrook, selected fourth overall by the Thunder in the 2008 NBA Draft, averaged 23.2 points, 5.2 rebounds and 7.4 assists a game last season.