Basketball: Westbrook shines but Spurs too good

Coming to grips with the challenge of keeping Russell Westbrook at bay, Patty Mills of the San Antonio Spurs fouls the Oklahoma City Thunder guard during the Spurs' 100-95 victory.
Coming to grips with the challenge of keeping Russell Westbrook at bay, Patty Mills of the San Antonio Spurs fouls the Oklahoma City Thunder guard during the Spurs' 100-95 victory.PHOTO: REUTERS

OKLAHOMA CITY • Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook edged closer to National Basketball Association (NBA) history with his 39th triple-double of the season on Friday, but it was not 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.

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    Number of triple-doubles Russell Westbrook needs to equal the record held by Oscar Robertson.

He nevertheless produced 32 points, 15 rebounds and 12 assists and is two triple-doubles shy of matching Oscar Robertson's NBA record 41 in a season, with seven games to play.

Robertson himself said that he is 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 Thunder can take from the tough defeat as they hurtle toward the play-offs.

"I think this is huge, especially so we will know what games (in the play-offs) will be like," he said.

"Every night is going to be like this and we have to be ready."

Oklahoma City's Victor Oladipo scored 16 points, Steven Adams added 13 points and Enes Kanter came off the bench to score 11 points for the Thunder (43-32), who are sixth in the Western Conference.

Pau Gasol had 17 points while LaMarcus Aldridge scored 14 as the Spurs improved to 58-17, 31/2 games behind Western leaders the Golden State Warriors, who defeated the Houston Rockets 107-98.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on April 02, 2017, with the headline 'Westbrook shines but Spurs too good'. Print Edition | Subscribe