Russell Westbrook poured in 30 points with 12 assists and nine rebounds on Sunday as the Oklahoma City Thunder rallied for a 122-112 NBA victory over the visiting Denver Nuggets.
Thunder forward Kevin Durant added 26 points and 10 assists for his eighth double-double of the season as Oklahoma City bounced back from a Christmas Day loss to the Chicago Bulls.
As they had two days earlier, the Thunder got off to a slow start, largely because they were unable to contain Nuggets forward Kenneth Faried.
Faried scored 10 of his 25 points and pulled down three offensive rebounds in the first six minutes.
Denver, effectively double-teaming Durant, led 61-53 at halftime. They extended the lead to 11 points to open the third quarter, but Durant scored 12 points in the third period to help the Thunder take a one-point lead into the final frame.
With 7:17 left in the fourth, Thunder center Enes Kanter completed a three-point play to give the hosts a 101-97 advantage.
Kanter added two free throws to stretch the lead to six, and a layup from Joffrey Lauvergne, a Westbrook Dunk and a fastbreak Dunk from Serge Ibaka put Oklahoma City up 107-99 with 5:09 to play.
Denver again cut the lead to three but would get no closer, Durant delivering two layups and Dion Waiters converting a steal into a dunk as the Thunder rolled to the finish.
“I do think we’re capable of being better,” Thunder coach Billy Donovan said. “I think we’ve shown that. I think the concentration, the focus and just the will to defend at the level I think we’re capable of defending has to be an area we continue to grow and get better at.”
– Grizzlies halt skid –
In Memphis, the Grizzlies snapped a two-game skid with a 112-96 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers.
With the win, the Grizzlies took their record to 17-16, avoiding dropping below .500 for the first time since November 15.
“We just wanted to win,” said the Grizzlies’ Spanish center Marc Gasol, who scored 16 points with six assists. “Last night (in Charlotte) we played two and a half quarters of good basketball and it’s not enough.”
The Lakers went into the game allowing a league-worst 107.2 points per game, and could do little to slow the Grizzlies offense.
Memphis connected on 45 of 80 shots for a 56.2 percent average and handed out a season-high 30 assists.
“We need to focus a lot more,” Lakers coach Byron Scott said of his team’s defense.
“Seems like we are stepping too slow. I don’t think it’s physical to be honest with you, because tonight the effort was there. From the mental standpoint, we just look like we’re fried.”
But Lakers veteran Kobe Bryant was again feeling the physical strain, this time with a sore right knee.
“Honestly, I wasn’t going to play,” Bryant said, adding that he changed his mind because he knew that with his retirement coming at the end of the season, fans across the country are turning out to see him play.
“I got on the bus and saw all the fans,” Bryant said of the sizeable contingent of Lakers backers in attendance. “I would feel really awful if I didn’t come in here and play.” – Agence France-Presse