Russell Westbrook’s 29 points, triple-double lead Thunder past Cavaliers (VIDEO)

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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) Russell Westbrook scored 29 points and had his 26th triple-double of the season to help the Oklahoma City Thunder beat the Cleveland Cavaliers 118-109 on Thursday night.

Westbrook added 12 rebounds and 11 assists in the 63rd triple-double of his career.

Victor Oladipo scored 23 points and Steven Adams had 20 points and 13 rebounds for the Thunder, who now can focus on their showdown with former teammate Kevin Durant and the Golden State Warriors on Saturday.

Kyrie Irving scored 28 points, LeBron James had 18 and Kevin Love added 15 points and 12 rebounds for the Cavaliers, who had won four straight. Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said after Wednesday’s win at Indiana that he was considering resting the three All-Stars, but they all started.

Cleveland rallied from 12 points down in the second quarter to lead 57-55 at halftime. James had 16 points at the break while Westbrook had 10 points, nine rebounds and eight assists.

Westbrook scored 11 points in the third quarter, and by the time he sat for his usual rest late in the period, the Thunder led 79-71. Oklahoma City led 86-82 at the end of the quarter, but the Cavaliers tied the game midway through the fourth.

Westbrook hit back-to-back midrange jumpers to put the Thunder up 107-101 with 3:42 left. The Thunder increased their lead to 111-101 on a 360-degree layup by Oladipo with 2:07 to play that gave Westbrook his 10th assist and clinched his triple-double.


Cavaliers: Signed forward Derrick Williams to a 10-day contract after the Miami Heat recently waived the No. 2 pick in the 2011 draft. He finished with 12 points in 22 minutes in his Cleveland debut. … James, who entered the night second in the league with 37.6 minutes per game, played 40 minutes.

Thunder: Shot 54.2 percent in the first quarter to lead 29-21. … Westbrook, the league’s leading scorer, did not make a field goal until halfway through the second quarter. … The Thunder outrebounded the Cavaliers 51-35. … G Cameron Payne scored a season-high 15 points.


The Cavaliers host the Denver Nuggets on Saturday.

The Thunder host the Golden State Warriors on Saturday in Durant’s first game in Oklahoma City since leaving as a free agent.

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League’s Last Two Minute Report backs referees (mostly) in Raptors/Thunder game

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Anyone who watched the Thunder’s win over the Raptors Sunday afternoon in Toronto — especially the final few minutes — thought it was not referee Marc Davis and crew’s finest hour. There were missed calls and three-straight ejections of Raptors players, which all seemed rather hair-trigger (especially coach Dwane Casey, who was tossed for something a fan behind him said).

The NBA’s Last Two Minute report doesn’t see it that way — it says the referees nailed it.

According to the report, there was only one missed call in the final two minutes: Carmelo Anthony held Pascal Siakam as a pass came to him with 11.7 seconds left, and that should have been called.

What about the play that set DeMar DeRozan off and ultimately got him ejected, the drive to the basket with 33 seconds left (and the Raptors down two) where DeRozan thought Corey Brewer fouled him? The report said that was a good no call:

DeRozan (TOR) starts his drive and Brewer (OKC) moves laterally in his path and there is contact. The contact is incidental as both players attempt to perform normal basketball moves….

RHH shows Brewer (OKC) make contact with the ball and the part of DeRozan’s (TOR) hand that is on the ball. The hand is considered “part of the ball” when it is in contact with the ball and therefore, contact on that part of the hand by a defender while it is in contact with the ball is not illegal.

(I didn’t see it that way, I think the contact was more than incidental, and to me looking at the replay Brewer catches some wrist and impedes the shot in a way that was not legal. Just my two cents.)

The report does not cover the ejections, which are reviewed by league operations but not part of this report.

Three thoughts out of all this:

1) Raptors fans/management/players have every right to feel the calls went against them in this game. As for calls always going against them — as DeRozan complained about after the game — 29 other teams and fan bases are convinced the officials have it out for them, too. I never bought that.

2) The Raptors didn’t lose this game solely because of the officiating. Russell Westbrook was clutch down the stretch, the Thunder were part of it, and the Raptors had other issues, too (Serge Ibaka had a rough game, for example).

3) This loss also does not say a thing about the Raptors in the postseason (even if they went a little too much isolation at the end) — this was their third game in four days, they looked tired and flat at the end. That will not be the case in the playoffs.

Rumor: Injured Jimmy Butler wore his jersey under shirt and jacket on Timberwolves bench

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Jimmy Butler‘s competitive fire burns hot.

How hot?

Butler is chomping at the bit to return from his knee injury. He sat on the Timberwolves’ bench during their loss to the Rockets last night wearing what appeared to be typical attire for a sidelined player. But dig deeper, and…

Marc Stein of The New York Times:

This story is too good to check out.

Kevin Love returns to Cavaliers lineup Monday vs. Bucks

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The last time Kevin Love suited up for the Cavaliers, it was still January and Isaiah Thomas, Dwyane Wade, and Jae Crowder were still on the team.

That is about to change tonight — Love will return from a fractured hand and play for the Cavaliers, but on a minutes restriction to start, interim coach Larry Drew confirmed.

Cleveland needs Love back. The Cavaliers went 11-9 without him in this stretch (and 6-7 since the All-Star break) with an offense that has still been top 10 in the NBA but a defense that is holding them back. The Cavaliers’ defense is just not on the same page right now, and the more time the regular rotations guys get to play together, the better they should be before the playoffs start.

As Love rounds into form, the Cavaliers have to figure out their rotations. Does Love start Love next to Larry Nance Jr., or does Nance come off the bench again? Probably the latter, but the Cavaliers will toy with the rotations (and do that more when Tristan Thompson returns).

Former NBA All-Star Steve Francis cited for public intoxication

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What happened to Steve Francis [after his playing days]? I was drinking heavily, is what happened. And that can be just as bad (as drug use). In the span of a few years I lost basketball, I lost my whole identity, and I lost my stepfather, who committed suicide.”
—Steve Francis, writing in the Players’ Tribune earlier this month, about his journey from selling crack to the NBA, and what happened after.

Addiction, once it’s got you, never goes away. The fight to stay sober/clean is a new one every day.

Steve Francis was cited for public intoxication in Burbank, Calif., after an incident at a hotel bar, according to TMZ (since confirmed by other reports).

Francis, 41, was arrested around 11:40 PM after police were called for a disturbance between two men at a hotel in Burbank.

Law enforcement sources tell us when cops arrived, Francis was intoxicated. He was arrested for being drunk in public.

Francis was transported to jail … before being given a citation and released around 7 AM Monday morning.

Francis denied in the Players’ Tribune article rumors he had a drug problem, but he owned up to drinking.