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.

Rumor: Ime Udoka frontrunner to become Bulls new coach

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Jim Boylen is the coach of the Chicago Bulls. It’s still his job and he has the backing of the owner and old-guard part of the organization.

That is very likely not enough to keep him in the job much longer, especially with the Bulls now officially not among the 22 teams headed to Orlando to restart the NBA season. Most around the league expect it’s just a matter of time until Boylen is let go (he has a .317 winning percentage across two seasons), with the new management team led by Arturas Karnisovas expected to bring in their own guy. When Karnisovas and GM Marc Eversley met with players, a few key ones ripped Boylen to management, a sign of the discord Karnisovas is trying to change within the organization.

Former player and current 76ers assistant coach Ime Udoka may be the frontrunner, reports Jay Cowley at the Chicago Sun-Times.

Sources have told the Sun-Times that 76ers assistant Ime Udoka is the front-runner to become the Bulls’ new coach, with Raptors assistant — and former Bulls assistant — Adrian Griffin also in the picture.

Udoka had a seven-year NBA playing career, plus he played in Spain, then after his playing days became an assistant coach under Gregg Popovich in San Antonio. Last offseason he jumped to the bench of the Philadelphia 76ers under Brett Brown (who came out of the Spurs coaching tree). Boylen is also a member of the Popovich coaching tree.

Teams not invited to Orlando are looking at conducting “mini-camp” style workouts and maybe having scrimmages/exhibitions against each other in August, so their players don’t go from March to December without playing in games. While the Bulls are not on a tight timeline to make a coaching decision, if they are bringing in someone new they would want that person in place before that summer training camp.

 

Kevin Durant confirms “My season is over. I don’t plan on playing at all.”

Nets star Kevin Durant
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The betting odds on the seven seed Brooklyn Nets to win the NBA title dropped to 60-1, even with the Thunder and better than the Trail Blazers and others, all because some fans thought maybe Kevin Durant would return. That despite report after report that it was not happening.

Now Durant himself has shot down the idea, speaking to Mark Spears of The Undefeated at ESPN.

“It’s just best for me to wait,” Durant said. “I don’t think I’m ready to play that type of intensity right now in the next month. It gives me more time to get ready for next season and the rest of my career.

“My season is over. I don’t plan on playing at all. We decided last summer when it first happened that I was just going to wait until the following season. I had no plans of playing at all this season.”

His Nets teammate Kyrie Irving will not play in Orlando, either. Irving had shoulder surgery back in March and is still recovering from that.

Durant added in the interview he has fully recovered from COVID-19 after testing positive for the coronavirus back in March not long after the season was shut down.

Next season the Nets will enter as one of the favorites in the East. For the restart this season, however, they will be the seven seed in the East with a tough first-round matchup against Toronto, or maybe Boston.

 

Trail Blazers guard CJ McCollum commends Jody Allen for no vote

Trail Blazers guard CJ McCollum
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The Trail Blazers, owned by Jody Allen, cast the lone dissenting vote on the NBA’s plan to resume with 22 teams.

Why?

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports:

Portland guard CJ McCollum:

Damian Lillard expressed his concern: He wanted the Trail Blazers to have a real chance at making the playoffs. They got that.

Wojnarowski mentioned how lottery odds are calculated – relevant only if Portland misses the postseason and something current players tend not to dwell on.

This feels incongruous.

Was safety a concern? The risk of coronavirus is higher with 22 teams than 20. However, it’s higher with 20 teams than 16.

The Trail Blazers are 17th in the league. And nobody publicly mentioned health. Having just 20 teams – especially with a group stage – would’ve given Portland an easier path into the top 16. (It’s unclear how many teams would’ve made the playoffs with a group stage).

NBA commissioner Adam Silver wanted everyone to unite behind this plan. Even other owners who disagreed with the plan voted for it. But with the Trail Blazers’ no vote, Allen engendered greater support from her players. If nothing else, that has value.

Report: NBA eying in mid-July 2021 NBA Finals in advance of Olympics

Tokyo Olympics
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The NBA plans to rush through the 2020 offseason and begin the 2020-21 season Dec. 1… just to rush through the 2020-21 season.

Frank Isola of The Athletic:

The NBA Finals normally begin 226 days after the regular-season opener with an 18-day window to play the best-of-seven series. So, based on a typical timeline, a Dec. 1 opener would mean the Finals would be held July 15 – Aug. 1., 2021.

The Tokyo Olympics are slated to begin July 23, 2021.

So, something must give.

It probably won’t be regular-season games. As much as the NBA would like its players to get exposure in the Olympics, owners will be extremely reluctant to surrender direct revenue. Likewise, the many NBA players not headed to the Olympics should share similar financial concerns.

More likely, the league will reduce the number of rest days during the 2020-21 season. That seems risky given the drastic disruptions already affecting conditioning entering the season.

It’s also possible players whose NBA teams advance deep enough in the playoffs just won’t be able to play in the Olympics (or Olympic Qualifying Tournaments, which are scheduled for June and July 2021).

Like with many things affected by coronavirus, there are no good answers – just hard decisions on what to compromise.