Sport

Thunder halt Raptors as Trail Blazers streak to 13th-straight win

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

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LOS ANGELES, United States (AFP) — Russell Westbrook's fifth-straight triple double helped the Oklahoma City Thunder end the Toronto Raptors 11-game NBA winning streak on Sunday, as the Portland Trail Blazers rumbled to a 13th consecutive victory.

Westbrook scored 37 points, pulled down 13 rebounds and handed out 14 assists. His heroics, including back-to-back baskets to break a tie with 54.9 seconds remaining, denied the Raptors the longest win streak in club history.

Toronto remained atop the Eastern Conference with a 52-18 record, but the Raptors were fuming after a chaotic end to the contest.

DeMar DeRozan, who led Toronto with 24 points, was ejected with less than 10 seconds to play for arguing with an official.

“You know the frustration, you know what it came down to,” said DeRozan, who was still angry after the game at what he said were non-calls on obvious fouls. “It was obvious, especially at the end of the game.”

Teammate Serge Ibaka was tossed moments later, then Toronto coach Dwane Casey was ejected — although video appeared to show it was a fan behind him who yelled at the referee.

Casey was measured in his post-game comments, saying only that the Raptors are looking for “fairness and consistency” from officials and adding: “We'll complain in the proper way.”

His reticence came on the same day that New Orleans coach Alvin Gentry and Detroit coach Stan Van Gundy were fined $15,000 apiece for post-game rants about refereeing.

New Zealand centre Steven Adams added 25 points and eight rebounds for the Thunder while Paul George scored 22 points and Carmelo Anthony netted 15.

“You've got to be able to keep your composure through it all,” Westbrook said. “That's what the game was all about.”

The Thunder remained two games behind the surging Trail Blazers for third place in the West.

Led by Damian Lillard's 23 points, all five Trail Blazers starters scored in double figures in a 122-109 victory over the Clippers in Los Angeles.

CJ McCollum and Maurice Harkless scored 21 points apiece, Jusuf Nurkic added 17 and Al-Farouq Aminu chipped in 16 as Portland's starters out-scored their Clippers counterparts 98-44.

With their 13th consecutive victory, Portland equalled the second-longest win streak in team history, behind their 16-game run in 1991.

In Minneapolis, the Houston Rockets improved their league-leading record with a 129-120 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves by fending off a late surge from the hosts.

Trailing by 25 early in the second half, Minnesota rallied to trim the deficit to five with 3:58 remaining.

But the Rockets, led by 34 points from Most Valuable Player candidate James Harden, responded to beat the Timberwolves for the fourth time this season.

“It's good for us, man,” Harden said. “We needed it. We needed to be in games like that. Obviously, having a big lead and losing it, we can't let it happen, but if it does we've got to make sure we can keep our composure and get a good shot every time.”

The New Orleans Pelicans, fighting for their playoff lives in the West, gained a much needed 108-89 victory over the Boston Celtics.

Anthony Davis scored 34 points and pulled down 11 rebounds and the Pelicans, who trailed by two at half-time, dominated in the second half to pull away.

Cheick Diallo scored a season-high 17 points and Nikola Mirotic added 16 for the Pelicans, who had dropped four of their previous five to see their playoff hopes dwindle.

“We know that we're a good team when we move the basketball instead of coming down and doing a one-pass shot or a no-pass shot,” Davis said. “When we move the basketball, make the defence scramble a little bit, we tend to find guys that are open.”

Jayson Tatum scored 23 points to lead the injury depleted Celtics, who remained comfortably ahead of the third placed Cleveland Cavaliers in the East.

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