Russell Westbrook’s 38, triple-double lead Thunder past Grizzlies (VIDEO)

Leave a comment

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) For three quarters, Russell Westbrook did most of his damage passing and rebounding.

Once his shot started falling, the Memphis Grizzlies were finished.

Westbrook scored 19 of his 38 points in the fourth quarter and had a triple-double to lead the Oklahoma City Thunder in a 114-102 victory Friday night.

Westbrook, the NBA’s leading scorer, shot just 4 of 14 from the field in the first three quarters. He bounced back and went 4 of 6 from the floor and 9 of 9 on free throws in roughly nine minutes of action in the fourth. He scored Oklahoma City’s last 15 points, all in the final 2:35.

“He’s amazing that, in that pressure moment, he’s just like, man, loves it,” Thunder center Steven Adams said. “That’s what’s awesome.”

The Thunder trailed 89-85 when Westbrook checked back into the game, and they outscored the Grizzlies 29-13 the rest of the way.

Westbrook also had 13 rebounds and 12 assists. It was his 25th triple-double this season and the 62nd of his career. His season total is the most in the NBA since Wilt Chamberlain had 31 during the 1967-68 season.

Adams had 16 points and 13 rebounds, Joffrey Lauvergne scored a season-high 16 and Anthony Morrow added 15 points for the Thunder, who snapped a three-game losing streak.

Westbrook said it was an important win following a blowout loss to Chicago on Wednesday.

“Definitely, especially when you get outplayed,” he said. “Tonight, we came out and were the more physical team and set the tone in that aspect.”

Marc Gasol scored 31 points, Mike Conley had 18 and Zach Randolph added 16 for the Grizzlies, who shot 48 percent overall but just 3 of 19 on 3-pointers.

The Thunder closed the first half strong to lead 58-48 at the break. Westbrook had 10 points, eight assists and seven rebounds at halftime. Conley had 13 points for the Grizzlies.

Westbrook got his 10th assist on Victor Oladipo‘s layup with 7:28 left in the third quarter, and had nine rebounds when he sat for a rest late in the period. While he was out, Memphis took advantage. Conley’s bank shot with 2.3 seconds left in the third gave the Grizzlies an 82-80 lead heading into the fourth.

Westbrook clinched the triple-double on a rebound with 6:49 remaining, but the Thunder still trailed. His 3-pointer with about two minutes to go put the Thunder ahead 105-102. He drained another 3 with 1:25 left to push the lead to six, and Oklahoma City controlled the game from there.

“We had a breakdown on the pick-and-roll the first 3 that he hit,” Grizzlies coach David Fizdale said. “The second one, he just raised up and hit a bomb. That’s when the game was done.”


Grizzlies: Committed just 12 turnovers. … Vince Carter led the team with seven points in the first quarter. He didn’t score again. … Made 12 of 15 field goal attempts in the third quarter.

Thunder: G Alex Abrines missed his third straight game with back spasms. … Shot 55 percent in the first half. … Committed 20 turnovers.


Gasol went 3 for 9 and scored eight points in the first half. He was 11 of 15 for 23 points in the second half.

“Second half, he came out more aggressive and he was just making shots,” Adams said. “Good player like that is going to make those. Just going to have to live with those.”


Westbrook, on a steal he had in the fourth quarter: “My closeout speed is not bad.”


The Grizzlies play at the Minnesota Timberwolves on Saturday.

The Thunder host the Portland Trail Blazers on Sunday.

Follow Cliff Brunt on Twitter:

Report: Becky Hammon staying with Spurs, not coaching Colorado State men’s team

AP Photo/Darren Abate
Leave a comment

Spurs assistant coach Becky Hammon was a candidate to coach the men’s team at Colorado State, her alma mater. That would have made her the first woman to coach a Division I men’s team.

Alas, it won’t happen.

Pat Forde of Yahoo Sports:

It’s unclear whether Hammon was ever actually offered the job.

She’s still on the right track for a head-coaching job somewhere. Most importantly, by all accounts, she’s doing good work in San Antonio. There’s also more attention on her career because of her pioneering status, and that will appeal to some teams.

This dalliance with Colorado State raises her profile even further and shows just how close she is.

Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni: James Harden ‘best offensive player I’ve ever seen’

AP Photo/Jack Dempsey

James Harden torched a solid Trail Blazers defense for 42 points on 13-of-25 shooting, including 5-of-7 on 3-pointers, and seven assists.

That prompted his coach to heap praise on the runaway MVP.

Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni, via Tim MacMahon of ESPN:

“That’s the best offensive player I’ve ever seen,” Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni said of Harden. “They’re running guys to him and he just steps a little further back and makes a 3. The way he can pass and see the floor, get layups, floaters, maybe a lob, maybe out to the corner — he has so many weapons, and now he’s shooting those step-back 3s.

“It’s impossible to guard him. It’s impossible.”

At first, that sounds like hyperbole from a biased source. But Harden might actually the best offensive player ever. (D’Antoni has been around for all the major contenders.)

Michael Jordan gets overlooked because he was also excellent defensively. Ditto LeBron James to a lesser extent. Another contender: Stephen Curry, whose Warriors might file away D’Antoni’s assessment for if they meet Houston in the playoffs. (The Rockets provide plenty of motivational fodder.)

The list of contenders definitely skews toward the present. Players have gotten progressively more skilled, especially the generation that grew up with the 3-point arc and didn’t suddenly have to adjust to it.

And Harden might be the cream of the crop. He’s an incredible shooter with very deep range off the dribble or spotting up, and he can drive with the best of them. Yes, foul-drawing is a skill. Harden’s combination of scoring volume and efficiency is unprecedented. He’s also an impressive passer, a skill fully unleashed by D’Antoni making Harden a point guard.

I think I’d lean toward Curry, who’s an even better shooter and screener. But it’s very close, and Harden keeps raising his level. Curry probably peaked two years ago (though he obviously remains elite). I definitely wouldn’t dismiss anyone who picks Harden as biased or misguided.

Cavaliers star LeBron James: Raptors ‘in a better place than we are right now’

Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP

It’s not enough to say the Raptors have the Eastern Conference’s best record.

The Celtics had the East’s best record last year, and most people thought the Cavaliers were better. Cleveland had a better point difference and more star power – LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love – than Boston. The Cavs confirmed that notion by cruising past the Celtics in a five-game conference finals.

The Raptors have been the Eastern Conference’s best team this season.

They rank fourth in the NBA in offensive and defensive rating, the only team top five in both categories. Led by DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry, their starting lineup has embraced a more dynamic offense with more 3-point shooting and passing. Toronto’s bench is the best in the league.

LeBron, whose Cavaliers host the Raptors tonight, via Joe Vardon of

“They’re in a better place than we are right now because they’ve had more consistency and they’ve had their guys in the lineup for the majority of the year,” James said after the Cavs’ morning workout. “So, they know what they want to accomplish. They know who they are at this point in the season. Obviously, you guys know about us, we’re still trying to figure that out.”

This is so obviously correct. It’s just surprising to see LeBron put it so directly, though it’s unsurprising he’s hanging on the Cavs’ instability to date.

Kevin Love and Isaiah Thomas were injured for long stretches, and Thomas and several others were traded. Coach Tyronn Lue is on a leave of absence.

But the Cavaliers made those major trades because they were struggling, and this new group won’t necessarily simply figure things out with time. Defensive problems persist. Lue’s health is unclear.

LeBron understandably remains confident in himself, even as the Cavs enter the postseason as a middling seed. He’s also setting up a narrative of Cleveland coming from behind if it advances to the NBA Finals. We’ll see whether it happens.

Tonight likely won’t be a referendum, though. Tristan Thompson, Rodney Hood, Kyle Korver and Larry Nance Jr. are out for the Cavaliers. That roster instability still exists.

If LeBron dials up playoff intensity tonight, that could send a warning to Toronto, though I’m not sure it’s necessary. As far ahead as the Raptors are right now, after Cleveland soundly eliminated them the last two years, I think everyone knows it’s a couple months too early to properly assess these teams’ relative places.

Report: Optimism remains for Kawhi Leonard returning this season

Ronald Cortes/Getty Images

Kawhi Leonard reportedly planned to return for last Thursday’s Spurs-Pelicans game – but didn’t.

A couple games later, and Leonard remains out. Will he actually play again this season?

Michael C. Wright of ESPN:

Leonard resumed working out in San Antonio on Feb. 27 and is feeling “much better,” according to the source. Eleven games remain in the regular season, but there remains optimism he will return this season, the source said.

Sources told ESPN that Leonard’s target date to return from the quadriceps tendinopathy that has kept him out for all but nine games this season has always been “mid-March.”

It’s March 21. We’re nearing the end of what anyone would consider mid-March.

A month ago, Spurs president-coach Gregg Popovich said time was running out for Leonard to return and acclimate to the lineup. But Popovich has sounded more open lately to Leonard – whose own doctors must still clear him – returning whenever the forward is ready.

San Antonio (41-31, tied for fifth in the West) has probably done enough without Leonard to make the playoffs. The Spurs have a 3.0-game buffer over the Nuggets and 3.5-game buffer over the Clippers for playoff position.

But San Antonio would become far more dangerous in the playoffs – a threat to any team, including the Rockets and Warriors – if Leonard returns to full strength.

First, he must just get back on the court at all, and maybe that’ll happen sooner than later. The way this injury has gone, though, it’s hard to believe anything until we see it.