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Russell Westbrook, Thunder cruise past Bulls 109-94

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CHICAGO (AP) — Even Russell Westbrook was impressed with the passing by Oklahoma City’s big men.

Westbrook flirted with another triple-double and Steven Adams led a dominant effort in the paint, helping the Thunder pull away from the Chicago Bulls for an easy 109-94 victory Monday night.

Westbrook had 21 points, 14 assists and nine rebounds, falling just short of his 18th triple-double of the season. But his all-around performance is practically a sure thing these days.

It was the inside play of Adams and Enes Kanter that really hurt Chicago, with the big men scoring with ease or passing out of double-teams to set up their teammates.

“They do a great job of playing off each other,” Westbrook said.

Adams had 22 points on 11-for-14 shooting, and Kanter finished with 20 points and 11 rebounds. The duo helped the Thunder to 56.6 percent shooting from the field, a 60-36 advantage on points in the paint and a 42-38 edge in rebounding.

“I thought tonight, on both ends of the floor, we played at a high level,” coach Billy Donovan said.

Dwyane Wade led Chicago with 22 points, and Michael Carter-Williams had 15. Cristiano Felicio finished with 11 points and 11 rebounds.

The Bulls had won three in a row and five of seven, but they were no match for the Thunder with Jimmy Butler hampered by an illness. The reigning Eastern Conference player of the week had one point on 0-for-6 shooting and seven assists.

“I appreciate him coming out and giving it a shot. That says a lot about him, as a competitor, but he was really struggling, obviously,” coach Fred Hoiberg said.

Butler was sent home after he left the game in the third quarter, and Hoiberg said Butler will not play Tuesday night against Washington. Wade, who turns 35 on Jan. 17, also will rest against the Wizards.

“Jimmy can’t put up 50 every night. We have to do better. We have to support him a lot better,” Bulls forward Taj Gibson said.

Gibson’s three-point play off a slick pass from Wade got Chicago within 10 with 6:51 left in the third, but Westbrook helped the Thunder put it away from there.

The dynamic point guard threw an alley-oop to Adams and then found the center for a layup. Westbrook set up Andre Roberson for a 3-pointer and a cutting dunk. Kanter added a driving layup with 54 seconds left, helping Oklahoma City to an 89-67 lead after three.

GRANT VS GRANT

Brothers Jerami and Jerian Grant faced off. Jerian Grant had 11 points in 21 minutes for the Bulls. Jerami Grant played 16 minutes for the Thunder and finished with seven points.

“Whenever I get to play against him, it’s great to see him,” Jerami Grant said.

TIP-INS

Thunder: Victor Oladipo scored 13 points on 6-for-9 shooting. … G Cameron Payne played almost 15 minutes in his second game of the season after being sidelined by a right foot injury. … The Thunder had lost four straight road games.

Bulls: G Rajon Rondo did not play on his bobblehead night. The veteran guard hasn’t played since Dec. 30 against Indiana, and it’s unclear when or if he will return to Hoiberg’s rotation. … Rookie G Denzel Valentine missed his third straight game with an ankle injury.

 

Jay Cohen can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/jcohenap

John Wall scores 37 as Wizards down LeBron James, Cavs 127-115

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CLEVELAND (AP) John Wall scored 37 points, Bradley Beal added 27 and the Washington Wizards began a challenging road trip by beating LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers 127-115 on Saturday night.

Wall scored 18 in the first quarter, when the Wizards shot 82 percent, and Washington held on down the stretch to avenge an overtime loss to the NBA champions last month.

James, who briefly wore goggles to protect an eye injury sustained Friday night, scored 24 and added 11 rebounds and eight assists. Kyrie Irving added 23 points and Kevin Love 17 for Cleveland, playing at home for the only time in a seven-game stretch.

Washington’s victory cut Cleveland’s lead in the Eastern Conference to a half-game over idle Boston.

Rudy Gobert calls out Jazz teammates after loss: “We’ve just got to compete. We’re too nice.”

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Utah and the L.A. Clippers are almost locked into a first round, four vs. five battle in the Western Conference. The only question is which team will have home court, and the Clippers took a big step towards that beating the Jazz at home Saturday. While the Jazz still has a half-game lead, the Clippers have a much softer schedule the rest of the way.

After that loss, Jazz center Rudy Gobert was ticked off and called out his teammates. Via Tim MacMahon of ESPN.

“We’ve got guys that compete, but some of us don’t compete. Some of us just think about scoring. That’s what it is. … Coach keeps repeating it: We’ve just got to compete. We’re too nice. Those guys, we know they’re going to get calls. We’ve just got to come out aggressive and ready to fight.”

Interesting comments for a team that is third in the NBA in defensive rating and 13th in offense.

Gobert is frustrated as Utah has dropped four of its last five, and the slump has been on both ends of the court. The defense has struggled, but if guys are looking to score too much they aren’t doing it efficiently because the offense has been worse.

This slide likely costs Utah home court in the first round, which could matter in what will be a tight matchup with Los Angeles. Utah needs to find its grinding rhythm again heading into the playoffs, at their best they can knock off the Clippers in the first round. Just not like they are playing now.

One thing to watch, Utah’s Gordon Hayward asked out of the game in the fourth quarter due to what is being called a bruised muscle in his leg. If he misses any time or if this lingers, it could be trouble for the Jazz in the postseason.

 

LeBron James starts game with protective goggles. That lasts about a minute.

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LeBron James suffered a scratched cornea Friday night when he went up for a layup late in the third quarter and Jeremy Lamb tried to contest and caught him clean across the face. LeBron got the and-1, but had trouble keeping his eye open in postgame interviews Friday.

Saturday he did play — wearing protective goggles. As you can see above.

That lasted about a minute.

LeBron was likely frustrated as the Cavaliers defensive woes had the Wizards up double digits much of the first half.

Kobe Bryant says he’s “only a phone call away” if organization needs his advice

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For the first time since he walked off the court in his final game, Kobe Bryant was back at Staples Center Friday night.

The reason was Shaquille O’Neal was getting a statue out in front of Staples Center (a building that may not have gotten built without the two of them). The two famed feuders sat next to each other and joked around through the ceremony. Time heals all wounds.

With the new management of the Lakers — specifically Kobe’s former agent Rob Pelinka as GM — there has been speculation Kobe could take on a role. He’s not looking for something formal, according to reports, but he didn’t say no, either, when asked.

I picture Kobe as a guy who someday buys a team, not a guy who wants to haggle with agents over the details of a contract. He’s not going to take on a day-to-day role, he likes the retired life and what he is building with the Kobe brand.

That said, the Lakers front office can use all the smart voices it can get as they try speed up a rebuild. They should give him a call every once in a while.