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Russell Westbrook grabs 40th triple-double, now just 1 away from tying record

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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) Desperately needing a victory to stay in the Eastern Conference playoff race, the Charlotte Hornets picked up one in a place they’d never won before.

Kemba Walker scored 29 points to help Charlotte overcome Russell Westbrook‘s sixth straight triple-double to beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 113-101 on Sunday. It was the Hornets’ first win in Oklahoma City, a place where they’d been 0-8.

Westbrook finished with 40 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists. It was Westbrook’s 40th triple-double of the season, putting him one behind Oscar Robertson’s NBA record of 41, set during the 1961-62 season. It was Westbrook’s first career triple-double against Charlotte.

Frank Kaminsky had 18 points and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist added 16 for Charlotte, which entered the day in 10th place in the East, two games behind Chicago, Indiana and Miami, who were tied for seventh. Charlotte has six games remaining.

“The readiness, one through 10 – every guy that played contributed,” Charlotte coach Steve Clifford said.

“The starters got off to a great start, which is important against a good team on the road and then the guys off the bench got the cushion there in the fourth quarter, Jeremy Lamb especially, so we got contributions from everybody.”

Walker went 6 of 12 from 3-point range. It was the 14th time this season Walker hit five or more 3-pointers in a game.

Charlotte had 18 steals against Oklahoma City, the most in a regular-season game for the Hornets since Nov. 23, 2012, against Atlanta. The Hornets scored 35 points off 24 Oklahoma City turnovers.

The Hornets “want to play in the playoffs,” Oklahoma City coach Billy Donovan said.

“They’re laying it on the line their last five or six games. I like playing against desperate teams, because what it does is it exposes what you have to do to really compete at that extraordinary high level.

“Give Charlotte a lot of credit. They played an exceptional game. They played really, really well all the way around. They had a lot to do with how we played.”

Charlotte seized control with a 13-0 run to open the second half, as the Thunder missed their first seven shots after halftime, allowing the Hornets to build a 72-54 lead.

Westbrook ended Oklahoma City’s scoring drought at the 6:24 mark and the Thunder closed within 12 points twice early in the fourth quarter, but Lamb, a former Thunder guard, scored nine points in a 13-4 run by Charlotte that made it 101-80 with 7:21 left.

“Coach ran a couple of plays for me and (Brian Roberts) just hit me and I was able to knock some shots down,” Lamb said. “That was a big point in the game and I was just happy to be able to knock something down and help the team.”

An 8-0 spurt by Oklahoma City, capped by a layup by Andre Roberson, got the Thunder within 102-91 with 4:37 left but a three-point play by Cody Zeller keyed Charlotte.

Oklahoma City shot out to a 13-6 lead, but the Hornets used a 28-9 run to go up 34-22 early in the second quarter. The Thunder pulled within 39-38, but Charlotte answered with a 16-4 run to build a 55-42 lead before Westbrook almost single-handedly cut the gap to 59-54 by halftime.

TIP-INS:

Hornets: Walker had four steals, moving him past 600 for his career. He’s the fourth Hornets player to reach that number, joining Muggsy Bogues, Gerald Wallace and Dell Curry. … Walker’s 229 3-pointers this season are the second-most in a single season in Charlotte franchise history. Jason Richardson had 243 in 2007-08. … Charlotte, which entered the game averaging the fewest turnovers in the NBA (11.5 per game), had 18 on Sunday. … Lamb scored 13 points against his former team.

Thunder: Taj Gibson returned to the starting lineup after missing Friday’s game against San Antonio due to illness, but scored only four points in 13 minutes. … Westbrook has 77 career triple-doubles – fifth on the NBA’s all-time list, one behind Wilt Chamberlain. … To clinch a season triple-double, Westbrook needs 11 rebounds and 29 assists over the Thunder’s final six games. … Chicago is the only team against which Westbrook hasn’t recorded a triple-double during his career.

15K FOR WESTBROOK

Westbrook passed the 15,000-point career scoring mark during the game, but shook his head when asked about that milestone afterward.

“It’s definitely something that I don’t take for granted, to be able to play this game long enough to do that is a blessing in itself,” he said.

Asked about being one triple-double away from tying Robertson, Westbrook was even more succinct: “We’ve got to win. That’s my thoughts.”

QUOTABLE:

Clifford, on defending Westbrook: “This was one of the best defensive games we’ve played in a while. I know he had 40 and we didn’t make a lot of mistakes on him. He’s just so good. … We didn’t have a lot of dumb fouls. He’s such a great shot maker. He had 40, but I felt our defense on him was good.”

UP NEXT:

Hornets: Will finish a two-game road trip at Washington on Tuesday before a potentially key home game on Wednesday against Miami.

Thunder: Will host Milwaukee on Tuesday to wrap up a three-game homestand.

Report: Teams are calling Clippers about DeAndre Jordan trades

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Injuries have ravaged the Clippers. They started the season 4-0 have been without three starters from opening night: Milos Teodosic (plantar fascia injury, he is still in a walking boot), Danilo Gallinari (strained left glute), and now point guard Patrick Beverley is out for the season after microfracture surgery on his knee.

All this has led to the Clippers losing nine in a row before beating the Hawks Friday night. All the weight of the offense has fallen on Blake Griffin‘s shoulders, and while he’s been good most of the game in the fourth quarter his numbers have plummeted, and the Clippers have stumbled.

It’s left the Clippers with a couple of hard questions.

Do they need a coaching change? There was a sense from sources around the league that Rivers is already on his way out — he was stripped of GM/president powers over the summer — and what kept him around was the couple of seasons at $10 million a year on his contract. That’s a lot of money for an owner to eat, even Steve Ballmer, but the time may be coming as a way to shake up the team.

The other, what to do with DeAndre Jordan? They could not work out a contract extension with him (Jordan was acting as his own agent), and one of the league’s top traditional centers is a free agent next summer, but new head basketball guy Lawrence Frank said they want Jordan to be a “Clipper for life.” Does Jordan want to be a Clipper for life? Do the Clippers really want him back, and if so at what price? Does a Clipper franchise trying to get approvals for a new arena in Inglewood want to rebuild now, because it does not help that process? If it’s time to move on and rebuild, do they need to trade him now?

Teams are calling about Jordan, reports Tim Bontemps of the Washington Post.

DeAndre Jordan, who can become a free agent after the season, has been coming up in trade conversations, with multiple teams talking potential trades. Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations Lawrence Frank said last month that Jordan will be a “Clipper for life,” muddled matters, as does the limited number of teams who need a center and the size of Jordan’s contract ($22.6 million).

Jordan is an All-NBA center, a defensive force in the paint who sets a strong pick, rolls hard to the rim, can finish with the best of them, and is averaging 10.4 points (scoring and attempts are down without Chris Paul feeding him) and 13.4 rebounds a game. Jordan knows who he is and plays within himself.

It’s not hard to imagine how he could help teams such as Cleveland, Washington, Milwaukee, and a host of others. The question is what would teams be willing to give up to get him — they have to send back salary to match, but will not want to give up assets that help them win now. The Clippers will be looking for good young players and picks back in the package, which makes it hard for a team such as Cleveland to put together a package.

But before they discuss trade scenarios, the Clippers need to figure out what they want to do. Life has come at them fast this season and led to a lot of big-picture questions that Frank and Ballmer need to answer.

Lonzo Ball finishes one-handed alley-oop on Willie Cauley-Stein (video)

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So much attention is paid to Lonzo Ball‘s father, jumper and passes. Those are the major storylines for the Lakers rookie.

But he has such a diverse skill set, and this is absolutely part of it. Ball is a savvy off-ball cutter in the halfcourt with the athleticism to get above the rim and finish alley-oops.

But finish them over 7-footer Willie Cauley-Stein, who was tracking the play (though slightly late)? That’s an eye-opener, even in the Kings’ 113-102 win.

Marc Gasol makes 3/4-court shot just after buzzer (video)

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When Marc Gasol‘s 3/4-court attempt went through the net, it seemed to barely matter the ball left his hands just after the first-quarter buzzer. After all, the Grizzlies led the Mavericks by 15, anyway.

Turns out, Memphis really needed that basket.

Watch Knicks string together 28-0 run against Raptors

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Toronto has been the second best team in the East this young season. Not that anyone is really convinced they will be called that by the time we get to the playoffs (or even the All-Star break, or even Christmas), but for the first 16-18 games of the season their new move-the-ball offense had them at 11-5 and looking solid.

Wednesday night the Knicks dismantled the Raptors.

Especially in the third quarter when the Knicks went on a 28-0 run to blow the doors off the Raptors (video above). The Knicks dominated the third 41-10, when Toronto shot just 1-of-16 from the floor.

New York is gaining confidence with each win this season, they are a fun team to watch that is starting to find an identity (now that a certain three-sided shaped one is not being forced upon them). Kristaps Porzingis is a monster, and while the Knicks overpaid the market for Tim Hardaway Jr. he has lived up to his contract this season. With rookie point guard Frank Ntilikina showing some nice defense and playmaking skills as a rookie (although he is undoubtedly still a work in progress), you can see a path to a strong future unfolding. There are real reasons for hope in New York. Someone just keep James Dolan distracted and away from the basketball operations side of the building.