OKLAHOMA CITY • After making a play in the final seconds to secure a 112-107 win for the Oklahoma City Thunder, Russell Westbrook took a bow and yelled "Merry Christmas" to the crowd on Monday at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
Things are feeling pretty festive for the Thunder after they won a season-best fifth consecutive game, this one against the team who began the day in the top spot in the National Basketball Association (NBA) Western Conference.
Westbrook was one of many reasons for the win, going eight of 10 from the field in the second half to finish with 31 points. And it was the guard that made the game-sealing play, first leaping to grab a rebound off James Harden's potential game-tying three-pointer with 28 seconds left which fell well short.
When Harden jumped to deflect Westbrook's outlet pass, the Thunder star once again wrangled the ball, quickly dribbled around a defender and then found Andre Roberson under the basket for a reverse lay-up that put the game away.
He got plenty of help from Paul George (24 points) and Carmelo Anthony (20). The trio combined to shoot 28 of 51.
The Thunder spent much of the first part of the season floundering as the trio struggled to find much offensive cohesion. But they have come together lately and improved to 19-15 with the win.
"Every night, teams guard us differently," Westbrook said. "Once we figure that out and see how teams are guarding us (we'll) find ways to make the game easier for them, and that's my job."
6 The Oklahoma City Thunder lost their first five games that were decided by six points or fewer. They are 9-1 in such closely contested games since.
Harden ended with 29 points and 14 assists. "We had several chances, we just couldn't convert and we couldn't get stops when we needed to," he said.
Trevor Ariza and Eric Gordon scored 20 for Houston (25-7), who fell to their third consecutive loss after they had a 14-game winning streak snapped last week.
In Boston, the Celtics took a 95-90 lead with 6min 18sec remaining on a Kyrie Irving three-pointer.
But Washington scored the next 12 points, Bradley Beal and Kelly Oubre Jr each making five points in the pivotal run, as the Wizards won 111-103.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE