Russell Westbrook's 60th career triple-double lifts Oklahoma City Thunder

By Peter Finney Jr., The Sports Xchange  |  Jan. 26, 2017 at 1:59 AM
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NEW ORLEANS -- Russell Westbrook is a player and not a basketball historian, but the NBA's living, breathing, triple-double machine has seen enough grainy videocassettes to realize he took another step toward greatness on Wednesday night.

Westbrook, just 28, surpassed Boston Celtics legend Larry Bird for fifth place in NBA history with his 60th career triple-double -- 27 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists -- to power the Oklahoma City Thunder to a 114-105 victory over the New Orleans Pelicans at the Smoothie King Center.

It was Westbrook's 23rd triple-double in 46 games this season and his second in three victories over the Pelicans in 2016-17. Bird finished his 13-year NBA career (1979-92) with 59 triple-doubles.

"I didn't watch much, but I know he was a good player," Westbrook said of Bird. "Obviously, he's a legend for a reason, and he's done a lot of different things for Indiana and the game.

"It's an honor, man," Westbrook added. "I never take this game for granted to play the game I love every night and to be able to do that is a great accomplishment. The path just to get to where I'm at is an honor that I don't take for granted."

The victory wasn't easy for the Thunder (27-19), who capped off a season-long six-game road trip with back-to-back wins to finish 3-3.

OKC led by 22 points in the second half but had to survive a 9-0 New Orleans run in the fourth quarter that cut the lead to 105-100 with 5:33 left.

The Pelicans (18-28) closed the gap without the services of All-Star forward Anthony Davis, who aggravated a right thigh injury late in the second quarter and did not return after scoring just eight points in 16 minutes on 2-of-8 shooting.

"Of course, it's frustrating for (Davis)," said New Orleans guard E'Twaun Moore, who led New Orleans with 18 points and a team-high eight rebounds. "He's a big part of what we do, and we just hope that he can get healthy."

The Thunder iced the game when Victor Oladipo nailed a 3-pointer from the left wing off Westbrook's 10th assist, and Oklahoma City outscored New Orleans 6-3 in the final 3:16.

Westbrook's 3-pointer early in the third quarter gave Oklahoma City its biggest lead of the game 67-45, but the Pelicans closed the quarter with a 37-25 run to cut their deficit to 92-82 entering the final period.

"I think we gave up 37 points in the third quarter ... so thank God we were able to score some points (28)," OKC coach Billy Donovan said. "We had a 10-point lead going into the fourth, and our guys closed the game out. It's never easy on the road. I hope our guys enjoyed the win because it's so hard to win on the road.

"I also feel like there are some great moments here in terms in trying to build this consistency. We got two (consecutive) road victories. We got them in two different ways."

The Thunder dominated the Pelicans on the inside, building a 38-20 advantage on their way to a 64-45 halftime lead. For the game, they held the Pelicans to 42.7 percent shooting and outrebounded them 43-37, but their 16 turnovers also kept New Orleans in the game.

OKC backup center Ends Kanter added 17 points and 11 rebounds despite taking an inadvertent elbow below the left eye from Davis that required four stitches to close. Starting center Steven Adams had 20 points and 11 rebounds.

"You can't dig yourself a hole against that team like that and expect for you to be able to win," said New Orleans coach Alvin Gentry. "It has to be the perfect storm. We did a good job of fighting our way back in it, but one missed shot, one bad turnover, one something and then all of a sudden they go down and score and you're right back in the hole again."

NOTES: Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry, who was an assistant at Golden State, said European basketball has partially influenced the changing offensive style in the NBA to a more perimeter game, where big men can do more than play with their backs to the basket. "You've got guys coming into the league who are changing it," Gentry said, referring to Anthony Davis of New Orleans, Karl-Anthony Towns of Minnesota and Domantas Sabonis of Oklahoma City. "Those guys they play out on the floor and they're very skilled. They can make enough 3s to be concerned about. ... We now don't take guys when they're 12 years old and because they're the biggest kid and have them play with their back to the basket. International basketball has had a huge influence on that." ... Thunder coach Billy Donovan said he was happy that Sabonis was chosen to play on the world team in the Rising Stars Challenge during All-Star weekend. "The coaches have done a terrific with him in terms of his development, his growth," Donovan said. "He's getting thrown into situations where he's getting the opportunity to play."

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