Westbrook triples as Thunder edge Portland

Thursday, January 24, 2019

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LOS ANGELES, United States (AFP) — Russell Westbrook bagged his 14th triple double of the season as the Oklahoma City Thunder overpowered Western Conference rivals the Portland Trail Blazers on Tuesday.

Westbrook finished with 29 points, 10 rebounds and 14 assists, to reach double digits in three key statistical categories, while teammate Paul George led the scoring with 36 points in a 123-114 victory at the Chesapeake Energy Arena.

The win saw the Thunder improve to 29-18, tightening their grip on third place in the West ahead of fourth-placed Portland, who slipped to 29-20 with the defeat.

While Westbrook and George led the Thunder's scoring, they received support throughout the lineup, with every starter posting double-digits.

New Zealand's Steven Adams and shooting guard Terrance Ferguson had 14 points apiece while Jerami Grant had 11 points. Dennis Schroder added 13 off the bench in his 22 minutes on court.

“It's very important to get everyone involved,” Westbrook said. “We've got so many guys in this team that are talented. We try to get everyone involved and into the game.”

The burden of Portland's scoring was once again shouldered by Damian Lillard, who had 34 points. CJ McCollum added 31 points while Bosnian international Jusuf Nurkic added 22 points.

In the Eastern Conference on Tuesday, Toronto bagged their 36th win of the season with a 120-105 defeat of the Sacramento Kings at Toronto's Scotiabank Arena despite resting star Kawhi Leonard.

The Kings, who fell to 24-24 after the loss, jolted the home crowd after taking a 34-29 first-quarter lead.

But the Raptors clicked into gear in the second quarter to build a four-point lead at half-time which they held onto after the interval.

Point guard Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet had 19 points each, while teammate Pascal Siakam once again impressed with 18 points.

Centre Serge Ibaka again had a monster night, snagging 10 rebounds while chipping in with 15 points.

Toronto ace Leonard, meanwhile, is expected to be rested once again when the Raptors face the Pacers in Indianapolis before coming back to the starting lineup for tomorrow's test against Houston.

“It was just a chance to get him some extended rest. We're sitting him out this back-to-back and he's definitely gonna play Friday in Houston,” Raptors head coach Nick Nurse said of Leonard.

Nurse was happy with the performance of Lowry, who dictated the Raptors tempo while also providing nine assists.

“I think he looked a little bit more like himself here tonight,” Nurse said.

The Raptors are now lying in second in the Eastern Conference on 36-13, 3.5 games clear of the third-placed Pacers.

Milwaukee lead the standings in the East.

In Tuesday's other games, Dennis Smith Jr returned from his mysterious week-long absence to help the Dallas Mavericks claim a 106-98 win over the Los Angeles Clippers.

Smith Jr, whose absence had been attributed variously to a sore back and a stomach bug, scored 17 points on his return, along with Luka Doncic, who also had 17. Harrison Barnes led the Mavs with 20 points.

Elsewhere, Karl Anthony-Towns scored 25 points and had 18 rebounds for Minnesota in a 118-91 blowout against Phoenix. The Suns fell to 11-38 after the loss and remain anchored to the bottom of the Western Conference.

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