WESTBROOK ON A ROLL

He’s the fourth player in his­tory to reach triple ton

New Straits Times - - SPORT -

RUS­SELL Westbrook snared the 100th triple-dou­ble of his ca­reer on Tues­day as the Ok­la­homa City Thun­der closed in on a play­off berth with a 119-107 de­feat of the At­lanta Hawks.

Westbrook fin­ished with 32 points, 12 re­bounds and 12 as­sists to be­come only the fourth player in NBA his­tory to record a cen­tury of triples.

The 29-year-old Thun­der star joins Os­car Robert­son (181), Magic John­son (138) and Ja­son Kidd (107) as the lat­est mem­ber of the ex­clu­sive club of triple-dou­ble cen­tu­ri­ons.

Reign­ing NBA MVP Westbrook had al­ready claimed Robert­son’s sin­gle-sea­son triple-dou­ble record last year, with 42.

“It’s a bless­ing man, I give all thanks to the man above for the abil­ity to play bas­ket­ball,” Westbrook said af­ter­ward when asked about his mile­stone.

“I’m just thank­ful to be able to do it here in Ok­la­homa City with my team­mates, happy to be able to ac­com­plish some­thing like that,” he added.

Westbrook led the scor­ing on Tues­day, with Carmelo An­thony adding 21 points and Jerami Grant con­tribut­ing 20 off the bench as the Thun­der im­proved to 41-29.

Ok­la­homa City are fourth in the Western Con­fer­ence stand­ings, two wins ahead of the fifth-placed New Or­leans Pel­i­cans.

Al­though not math­e­mat­i­cally cer­tain of a place in the post sea­son, only a ma­jor col­lapse is likely to deny the Thun­der a play­off berth.

Else­where on Tues­day, the San An­to­nio Spurs bounced back from Mon­day’s maul­ing at the hands of Hous­ton with a 108-72 blowout over the Or­lando Magic.

LaMar­cus Aldridge re­turned to the start­ing line-up for San An­to­nio and duly de­liv­ered with 24 points. Aldridge was one of six Spurs to make dou­ble fig­ures, help­ing the fran­chise im­prove to 38-30 for the sea­son.

San An­to­nio, who are await­ing the re­turn of Kawhi Leonard from in­jury, are bat­tling to avoid fail­ing to reach the play­offs for the first time since 1996-1997.

Two of the Spurs vet­er­ans, Tony Parker and Pau Ga­sol, both ral­lied to the cause on Tues­day with 10 and 11 points off the bench.

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich saluted his side’s hard-nosed de­fen­sive dis­play as in­te­gral to the win.

“The de­fense re­ally set the tone,” Popovich told re­porters. “Peo­ple guarded their men and took pride in it and the rest of the team fol­lowed through. It kind of fu­elled the of­fense a lit­tle bit.”

Popovich be­lieves the Spurs de­fense could ul­ti­mately de­fine the re­main­der of their sea­son.

“We’re not go­ing to score on some nights so the de­fense has to sus­tain us,” he said.

In the East­ern Con­fer­ence, mean­while, lead­ers Toronto were forced to dig them­selves out of a hole be­fore re­cov­er­ing to seal a ninth straight win in their 116-102 de­feat of the Brook­lyn Nets.

Jonas Valan­ci­u­nas led the Rap­tors’ rear­guard ac­tion with 26 points and 14 re­bounds, help­ing Toronto re­cover from a 74-59 deficit early in the sec­ond half to claim a win which saw them seal their 50th win of the sea­son.

DeMar DeRozan and Fred VanVleet scored 15 points each while Kyle Lowry had a rel­a­tively quiet night with 11 points and 11 as­sists.

D’An­gelo Rus­sell led the scor­ing for the Nets with 32 points with Ron­dae Hol­lisJ­ef­fer­son adding 19 from the bench.

In Phoenix, LeBron James scored his 14th triple-dou­ble of the sea­son — a ca­reer high — as the Cleve­land Cava­liers de­mol­ished the Suns 129-107.

The Cavs im­proved to 39-28 to re­main in fourth spot in the East, be­hind Toronto, Bos­ton and In­di­ana.

James mean­while lit up the vic­tory with 28 points, 13 re­bounds and 11 as­sists on a night when seven Cleve­land play­ers posted dou­ble-digit scores, in­clud­ing Jor­dan Clark­son, with 23 off the bench.

EPA PIC

Thun­der’s Rus­sell Westbrook (top) re­acts af­ter dunk­ing over Hawks in their game in At­lanta on Tues­day.

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