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

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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.”

TIP-INS

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.

STAT LINES

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.”

QUOTABLE

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

UP NEXT

The Grizzlies play at the Minnesota Timberwolves on Saturday.

The Thunder host the Portland Trail Blazers on Sunday.

Follow Cliff Brunt on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/CliffBruntAP.

Damian Lillard talks about his “no pressure” pitch to Carmelo Anthony, selling Portland

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Self-made, over-achieving players in the NBA tend not to be the recruiters. They worked hard and made it to where they are more on their own, and their world-view follows that path. Think Derrick Rose in Chicago.

Damian Lillard was one of those guys, but he has done a little recruiting of late — he reached out to Carmelo Anthony last week. Lillard told Chris Mannix of NBC Radio (who is filling in for Dan Patrick for the day on his national radio show) that it wasn’t really the John Calipari hard-sell.

“It wasn’t really a pitch, I just reached out to him and let him know the interest just wasn’t from our front office, if there was a possibility there was definitely interest from the players as well, and I didn’t want that to be confused,” Lillard said on the radio show. “I didn’t put no pressure on him or ask him a bunch of questions, I just said what it was from our end.”

That is nice, but Anthony reportedly has focused in on Houston, and might settle for Cleveland (if there was a deal to be had). Would ‘Melo waive his no-trade clause to head to Portland?

“I didn’t get a sense that he wouldn’t,” Lillard said in a tepid response. “What we have here is a good situation for him and that’s just kind of where it went. I let him know what I thought he could do for our team and what our team could do with his presence. And that was it. We didn’t go over no details or talk about a no trade clause or nothing like that. He’s gonna make his own decision to do that or not, I just want to make sure we had some kind of a conversation.”

It’s a start. It’s likely not enough. Anthony wants to go somewhere and chase a ring, and despite what C.J. McCollum thinks, Portland with ‘Melo isn’t a contender. Even with Anthony, I would have them sixth in the West, maybe fifth at best (Warriors, Rockets, Spurs, Thunder, and probably Minnesota are better still). And this is assuming Portland can find a team to take on Myers Leonard’s contract to make a deal work.

What Lillard wanted to get across was that Portland is a great place to be an NBA player.

“I think people talk about what it would be like in Portland or to play in Portland, but actually having lived here, I live here year-round, so I know it’s a great place to live,” Lillard said. “Some of the best food in the United States. You talk about loving the game of basketball, our team and the soccer team are all the city has, so we get a lot of support and our fans really back our team and are really passionate about our team. That type of environment, and that type of love and support around the city, what NBA player wouldn’t want to be a part of that?”

Jimmer Fredette re-signing in China

AP Photo/George Bridges
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Jimmer Fredette played well in China last year, and buzz even emerged about him re-joining the NBA after the Chinese season ended in March. Never happened.

Even in the offseason, when every NBA team had open roster spots, nobody stateside has signed Fredette.

So, he’s returning to the Shanghai Sharks.

Fredette:

Fredette retains a cult following in America, but not the talent of an NBA player. He can score plenty in a lesser league, but his game doesn’t fit with better players on the floor.

Perhaps, he could’ve gotten a training-camp invite, maybe even with a small guarantee. But would’ve faced an uphill battle sticking into the regular season. Better for him to lock into a bigger salary in China now.

Rumor: Carmelo Anthony and the Thunder ‘officially circling each other’

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Carmelo Anthony prefers to be traded to the Rockets. He might soon be traded to the Rockets.

Are the Thunder trying to interject themselves before it’s too late?

Bill Simmons of The Ringer:

Thunder assistant general manager Troy Weaver was an assistant coach at Syracuse when Anthony played there. Weaver is also well-connected in the Washington area (D.C./Maryland/Virginia). I’m not sure how much that means to Anthony, who grew up in Baltimore – in many ways, a different world from the DMV (which includes only parts of Maryland and Virginia closer to D.C.). Still, Weaver and Anthony at least share their Syracuse connection.

The problem: An Oklahoma City trade for Anthony would almost have to include Steven Adams (way more valuable than Anthony) and/or Enes Kanter (way less valuable than Anthony). There’s no easy way to bridge either gap, especially considering how much the Thunder need Adams’ interior presence.

Here’s my best stab at a workable framework for a trade, via ESPN’s trade machine:

screenshot-www.espn.com-2017-07-24-12-26-16

The Clippers would get a more-skilled backup center while just shuffling bad contracts (at least that’s how it seems they view Wesley Johnson‘s deal). The Thunder would still need to send the Knicks more assets (Terrance Ferguson, Jerami Grant and/or draft picks). The Knicks would get a veteran point guard in Austin Rivers while Frank Ntilikina develops and, more importantly, additional young assets. It’s just a matter of determining whether there’s an overlap in the picks Oklahoma City would trade and New York would receive. That window might be tight – or not exist.

Adding Paul George and Anthony to a team led by Russell Westbrook would be exciting. I’m just not sure it’s realistic.

Rumor: Knicks likely to trade Carmelo Anthony to Rockets this week

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After numerous starts and stops and starts and stops, maybe the Knicks will actually trade Carmelo Anthony to the Rockets soon?

Tarek Fattal of the Los Angeles Daily News:

So, they found a third team to take Ryan Anderson or a fourth team to take Meyers Leonard?

If true, that’d please at least Anthony.

There’s room for a trade to work. New York is clearly ready to move on from Anthony, and Houston wants him to join James Harden and Chris Paul. The Rockets can add sweeteners to convince another team – or maybe even the Knicks – to take a bad contract in the trade.

But this has dragged on so long, I need more evidence the deal is actually close before I believe it.