Saturday, April 1, 2017
Thunder's Westbrook eyes history, but Spurs get win
Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook edged closer to NBA history with his 39th triple-double of the season, but it wasn't enough to hold off the San Antonio Spurs.
The Spurs, who trailed by as many as 21 points in the third quarter, rallied for a 100-95 victory in Oklahoma City.
Kawhi Leonard scored 20 of his team-high 28 points in the second half and pulled down 10 rebounds to fuel the Spurs comeback.
"It's what I have been seeing from him for 74 games," San Antonio's Manu Ginobili said. "The kid can play. He is strong and he's hard-nosed and he's going to keep going. In the second half, he really stepped up and made some huge plays."
Westbrook, conversely, struggled down the stretch. He connected on just eight of 22 from the field and turned the ball over eight times.
He nevertheless produced 32 points, 15 rebounds and 12 assists.
He is two triple-doubles shy of matching Oscar Robertson's NBA record 41 in a season, with seven games to play.
Robertson himself says he's rooting for Westbrook to get the record.
"I always thought he was a great basketball player," Robertson told ESPN.com. "I think he's been tremendous for the team, his fans and also for television."
Westbrook was more concerned with the lesson the Tunder can take from the tough defeat as they hurtle toward the playoffs.
"I think this is huge, especially so they will know what games will be like," Westbrook said. "Every night is going to be like this and they have to be ready."
Russell's triple-double binge has put him at the forefront of the Most Valuable Player discussion.
But Leonard staked his claim to featuring in that conversation -- and had plenty of help with 17 points from Pau Gasol and 14 from LaMarcus Aldridge.
It was Aldridge who put the Spurs ahead by one point with 56.1sec remaining. Oklahoma City's Steven Adams and Aldridge then exchanged layups and the Spurs led 96-95 with 18.7sec to play.
After a timeout, Westbrook drove into the lane, where his layup was blocked. Leonard produced a three-point play to seal the game.
"They were just playing with a more sense of urgency than we did," Westbrook said. "Guys have to be ready to step up and they played with a little bit more sense of urgency than we did."