Kurt Helin

Watch Russell Westbrook put up another triple-double: 41/16/12

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The Thunder have lost three in a row, their defense that was so solid to start the season has stumbled, but none of that has slowed Russell Westbrook.

He was attacking and scoring on Sunday night with 41 points, 16 assists and 12 rebounds for the Thunder. That’s three triple-doubles in 10 games this season for the angriest man in the NBA.

Orlando got the win Sunday behind 31 points and four blocks from former Thunder star Serge Ibaka.

Three things we learned Sunday: Serge Ibaka haunts old team as ghost of Thunder past

Associated Press
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Here’s what you missed Sunday night around the NBA while taking part in a grave digging competition

1) Serge Ibaka just needed a revenge game to get going. Through nine ugly games to start the season, Serge Ibaka just told Magic fans “keep believing in me” (while OKC looked smart for getting Victor Oladipo). The days when Ibaka was going to be the third star in Oklahoma City next to Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook seemed a distant memory, as did the full-court game that made one think Ibaka could be that guy.

What Ibaka needed was a revenge game. Even if he didn’t really have a reason for revenge. Ibaka came out against his old team Sunday and showed them what they were missing — he was the ghost of Thunder past. Ibaka scored a career-high 31 points — including draining the game winner with a nine-foot baseline jumper. But more than just the points, it was “Ibaka the rim protecting beast” that showed up and won the game for Orlando — his four blocks helped the Magic get out to the 20-point first half lead (that they almost blew late). Now it is Steven Adams that is the anchor in the paint for the Thunder, the guy that helped make Ibaka expendable in OKC, and Ibaka took a personal joy in shutting him down.

The other hero for Orlando may be Elfrid Payton, who had a line of 23/7/9 and seemed to have his way when Westbrook was guarding him (Andre Roberson shut him down, but Roberson was needed on Jeff Green who posted up Westbrook at will when they switched). Payton had key threes in the fourth when the Magic needed him in a frenetic game. Westbrook got another triple double — 41 points, 16 assists, 12 rebounds — but Oklahoma City could not just outscore Orlando. The Thunder started the season 6-1 because of the combination of Westbrook and strong defense, but the defense part of that has gone away during a three-game losing streak. Look at Orlando’s shot chart from Sunday night.

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2) Andrew Wiggins found the Lakers “defense” to his liking. When I wrote about the Lakers potentially making the playoffs after a 6-4 start, I said it would come down to if they could sustain their league-average defense. If you want an example of why I question that, look no further than Andrew Wiggins — in a battle of “up-and-coming young rosters in the West” Wiggins dropped a career high 47 on the Lakers, who had no answer for how to defend him (not that any team has of late).

Wiggins was getting to the rim and not settling for turnaround jumpers. He also just continues to kill it from three — 54.8 percent this season (that is not sustainable) — which opens everything up.

3) Damian Lillard keeps putting up points, and Portland keeps on winning. It seems easy to look at the stat lines some nights and say “Damian Lillard dropped 32, of course he did” and move on as if it’s an everyday thing. Because he can get those numbers at will. But Lillard is getting those buckets in wins and Portland is now 7-4 to start the season and right there with two good teams in the NorthWest division in OKC and Utah. Lillard had 32 as Portland beat Denver Sunday and they are right now the four seed in the West — they can have dreams of getting home court in the first round of the playoffs. Which is a long ways off, but when Lillard keeps doing this things happen.

Wiggins scores 47 to lead Timberwolves over Lakers, 125-99

Associated Press
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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) Andrew Wiggins: 47.

All five Los Angeles Lakers starters: 47.

Wiggins hit 14 of 21 shots to blow past his previous career high of 36, leading the Minnesota Timberwolves to a 125-99 victory over the Lakers on Sunday night.

“I’m finding myself, finding things I’m good at and things I need to work on,” said Wiggins, nine games into his third season in the league. “The game has kind of slowed down for me a little bit. I’m able to read defenses better now and see how the defense is set.”

Wiggins hit 17 of 22 free throws and Nemanja Bjelica added a career-high 24 points and eight rebounds for the Timberwolves, who played without starting guard Zach LaVine and reserve forward Shabazz Muhammad. Both missed the game with sore right knees.

Lou Williams scored 13 of his 17 points in the fourth quarter for the Lakers, who got 47 points from their starters and 52 from their bench. Julius Randle had 14 points and six rebounds and Jordan Clarkson scored 14.

“You let a player as good as him get an additional 22 free chances on that, one he’s going to score a lot and two he’s going to get hot because he’s in a rhythm from all the free throws he’s shooting,” Lakers coach Luke Walton said. “We couldn’t really contain him tonight.”

Wiggins was a team-best plus-34 in 41 minutes, and LaVine showered his close friend with Gatorade during his postgame television interview. The Wolves went 13 of 27 from 3-point range, many of them clean shots coming after the defense collapsed on Wiggins.

“I think he’s just scratching the surface,” Wolves coach Tom Thibodeau said. “I think he can do a lot more.”

The game featured two of the most promising young cores in the league, with Wiggins, LaVine and Karl-Anthony Towns hoping to end Minnesota’s 12-year playoff drought and D'Angelo Russell, Randle and Brandon Ingram reviving the Lakers in the post-Kobe era.

Entering the season, the Lakers were believed to be a step behind the Wolves in the process, but they won six of their first 10 games while Minnesota got off to a disappointing 2-6 start.

Both teams played on Saturday night, but the Wolves were finishing a rare home back-to-back, and appeared to have the fresher legs all night. The Timberwolves scored 21 points off of 17 Lakers turnovers.

TIP-INS

Lakers: C Timofey Mozgov was in foul trouble all game, playing just 15 minutes before fouling out. … Ingram played after being listed as questionable with a sprained ankle suffered on Saturday night in New Orleans. Ingram finished with 10 points in 26 minutes. … The Lakers wrapped up their three-game road trip at 2-1.

Timberwolves: Wiggins scored a career-high 25 points in the first half. … F Brandon Rush missed his fourth straight game, and coach Tom Thibodeau revealed that Rush has been dealing with a bruised big toe on his right foot.

BJELICA STARTS

With LaVine injured, Thibodeau inserted the 6-foot-10 Bjelica, normally a power forward, into the lineup at small forward and moved Wiggins to shooting guard. The former Euroleague MVP made five 3s and also had three steals and a block.

“I thought he played a beautiful game tonight,” Thibodeau said. “He made really good decisions.”

LAKERS BENCH

The second unit has been a strength for the Lakers all season, averaging 52.1 points per game in the first 10. The leading scorer from the game has come from their bench in eight of 11 games so far this season.

“No excuse,” Russell said of playing three games on the road in four nights. “We just lost.”

TOWNS STRUGGLES

Towns finished with 22 points and 12 rebounds, but he really had to work for it. The reigning rookie of the year made 7 of 22 shots, including just 6 of 10 free throws.

 

Watch Serge Ibaka hit game winner vs. his former team Thunder

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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Serge Ibaka‘s baseline jumper with less than a second remaining gave the Orlando Magic a 119-117 win over Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder on Sunday night.

Ibaka, who was traded from the Thunder to the Magic in the offseason, scored a career-high 31 points and added nine rebounds and four blocks.

With the score tied in the final minute, Westbrook missed a pull-up jumper, and Orlando rebounded and called timeout with 11 seconds remaining to set up Ibaka’s winner with 0.4 seconds left.

Westbrook finished with 41 points, 16 assists and 12 rebounds for his third triple-double of the season and 40th of his career. The Thunder had won 20 straight when Westbrook tallied a triple-double.

Elfrid Payton scored 23 points and Evan Fournier added 21 for the Magic, who snapped a three-game losing streak.

It was the third straight loss for the Thunder, all at home, after a 6-1 start.

Oklahoma City’s Victor Oladipo, who came to the Thunder in the Ibaka deal, scored 12 points.

The Magic led by 21 in the second quarter and were up 57-47 at halftime. Ibaka scored 19 points before the break to match Westbrook’s 19 points.

The Thunder rallied late in the third quarter. A putback by Enes Kanter with 1:35 left in the third quarter tied the game at 80. Oklahoma City led 84-82 heading into the fourth quarter.

The Thunder had one last shot after Ibaka’s jumper, but Nick Collison couldn’t quite connect on a lob to Westbrook.

 

Alvin Gentry pokes fun at Luke Walton’s tardy pre-game habits

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Saturday night, before the hot Lakers went into New Orleans and trounced the struggling Pelicans, old friends Alvin Gentry and Luke Walton shared a laugh. The two respective head coaches for the game are friends who served as fellow assistants under Steve Kerr as the Warriors went on to win the NBA title in 2015.

In his pregame press conference, Gentry used something Walton used to do in those days to poke fun of the Lakers’ coach, via Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News.

“It’d be six minutes on the clock before the game started and he was walking around in his underwear in the locker room,” Gentry said, laughing. “We shook our head all the time.”

Gentry and Warriors coach Steve Kerr teased Walton all the time. So much that Walton said it happened “every game.” Walton then vowed he would change his routine. But Kerr told him, “Don’t you dare change who you are.”

“We all had some good laughs about it. It was good memories,” Walton said. “It was part of the fun. It was a good group to work with up there.”

For the most part, it was a love fest between Gentry and Walton, who sounded like they had formed a mutual admiration society.

At least until the game started. The first half was close, but the Lakers’ starters went on a 14-0 third quarter run that blew the game open (the Lakers’ starters were +11 on the night). The Laker trio of Lou Williams, Jordan Clarkson, and Larry Nance Jr. were +19 in 19 minutes, and the Pelicans had no answer for them. The Lakers won by 27 to improve to 6-4 on the season, while the Pelicans fell to 1-9.