Derrick Rose had the best game of his Knicks career Monday night. But he’ll always be remembered as the “other guy” in this one because of the point guard he was matched up against.
Rose flashed his MVP form with a game-high 30 points. But Russell Westbrook, Rose’s Los Angeles workout buddy and opposite number on the Oklahoma City squad, stole the show at the Garden with a massive 27-point, 18-rebound, 14-assist performance in the Thunder’s 112-103 victory.
“To tell you the truth, that 30 don’t mean nothing when you lose,” Rose said. “And the way that we lost — there wasn’t any grit, there wasn’t any grind, and we can’t come out and play like that, period.”
Rose was energized from the start to face Westbrook, who after Monday night is averaging a triple-double for the season (30.9 points, 11.3 assists and 10.3 rebounds).
“It’s always fun playing against a player like that,” Rose said. “He’s so dynamic with what he does and how he plays. He’s figuring out with that team what to do. They’re following behind him.”
Westbrook began the night one-tenth of a rebound away from averaging at least 10 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists. He almost did that in the first half, when he had 14 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists.
Rose had a pretty good half, too: 14 points and three assists. He really sparkled in the first quarter with eight points as the Knicks raced out to an 11-point lead. But the Thunder rallied in the second quarter to take a 58-55 lead into halftime and never trailed in the second half.
Overall, Rose shot 10-for-20 from the field and hit all 10 of his free throws. He added seven rebounds and four assists.
“He had good energy tonight,” Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek said. “His explosiveness is there. You saw tonight he’s getting back into his form that he always is. I think that when he really feels comfortable with taking the ball to the basket like that, that’s going to open up [the offense].”
Previously, Rose’s highest-scoring Knicks game came on Nov. 17 when he had 27 in a 119-112 loss to the Wizards.
Hornacek said Rose is rounding into form after missing much of the preseason while attending his civil trial in Los Angeles.
“I think recently he’s just playing,” Hornacek said. “He’s feeling more comfortable with the plays. He missed a big set of time right before the start of the season. We crammed things in for him. We threw a lot at him quickly to comprehend and figure out. I think he’s getting more comfortable with what we do out there. When you’re not thinking about the game and just playing, you usually have better results.”