LOS ANGELES: NBA scoring leader Russell Westbrook put on another display of offensive fireworks Wednesday (Thursday in Manila), pouring in 42 points to lead the Oklahoma City Thunder to a 121-110 NBA victory over the Pelicans in New Orleans.
Westbrook flirted with a triple-double, finishing 10 rebounds and seven assists.
But Westbrook had plenty of help from the Thunder’s supporting cast. He was on the bench early in the fourth quarter when Oklahoma City’s reserves produced 11 points in a 16-2 scoring run that broke open a close game, turning an 89-87 edge into a 105-89 lead.
Backup guard Alex Abrines scored 12 of his career-high 18 points in the fourth quarter.
The 23-year-old from Spain, playing in his first NBA season, finished with five three-pointers.
“It was one of those days where you feel like the rim is bigger and you can score on almost every shot,” Abrines said.
Westbrook was delighted to see Abrines show in a game the long-range skills he has displayed in practice.
“He can shoot the hell out of the ball, man,” he said. “He works out every day and works on his game, and that’s the best part about him. This is his first year and he’s going to learn the ups and downs throughout the whole season, but tonight he did a great job making shots.”
Irving, James lead Cavs
A day after their overtime win in Milwaukee, the reigning champion Cavaliers beat the same Bucks team 113-102 in Cleveland.
Kyrie Irving and LeBron James, who both played big minutes on Tuesday, showed no sign of fatigue, Irving scoring 31 points and handing out a career-high 13 assists and James adding 29 points in the victory.
Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue admitted he thought about resting the pair, but with Kevin Love still sidelined by a sore knee and J.R. Smith out with a broken thumb, his options were limited.
Irving, for one, was glad to get another crack at the Bucks, who stunned the Cavs 118-101 in November.
“I’m fired up to go against them every time now, for real,” he said. “Ever since they kicked our ass in Milwaukee, it’s been personal and it’s going to continue to be personal.”
In Phoenix, James Harden scored 27 points and handed out 14 assists to help the Houston Rockets bounce back from their first defeat of December.
The Rockets drained 18 three-pointers in the 125-111 triumph that came a day after a tough 102-100 loss to San Antonio ended Houston’s 10-game winning streak.
“It’s a good bounce-back win, back-to-back, and the guys showed some heart,” Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni said.
Timberwolves down depleted Hawks
With Dwight Howard sidelined for a second game by tightness in his back, the Atlanta Hawks fell 92-84 to the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Karl-Anthony Towns scored 16 points and grabbed 18 rebounds for the Timberwolves, who put together consecutive victories for the first time this season.
“It changed the game plan a little bit,” Towns said of Howard’s absence. “We went in there and did a great job of attacking the paint and using the paint to our advantage.”
Andrew Wiggins scored 19 points and Zach LaVine added 17 for Minnesota.
In a game that featured a dozen lead changes, the young Timberwolves kept their composure as the Hawks closed within three points with 4:51 remaining.
“We did a great job finishing the game,” Towns said. “We stayed the course and stuck with our game plan and executed it near flawlessly at the end.”
The Sacramento Kings and Dallas Mavericks both eked out narrow road wins.
DeMarcus Cousins had 21 points, including five key free throws in the final minute as the Kings rallied to down the Jazz 94-93 in Utah.
And the Mavericks edged the Trail Blazers 96-95 in Portland.
Dallas led by as many as 25 points in the third quarter, but escaped with the victory only after Trail Blazer guard Damian Lillard’s three-point attempt bounced off the rim as time expired.
Gasol’s big night propels Grizzlies past Pistons
One night after Memphis coach David Fizdale criticized his team’s leadership, Grizzlies captain Marc Gasol matched his NBA career high with 38 points in a 98-86 victory over the Detroit Pistons.
The effort from the Spanish big man, who connected on 14 of 17 shots from the floor, helped the Grizzlies snap a three-game skid.
He said he hadn’t realized as he stepped to the foul line with 36.4 seconds remaining that he had a chance to improve his career-high for points, and he wasn’t disappointed that he only matched his prior mark when he missed one of those free throws.
“I never care one bit about career highs or points,” he said. “To me, that’s just numbers. They don’t explain the story. They just show a portion of it.”
The important thing was the win, after the Grizzlies had dropped games to Sacramento, Utah and Boston.
Fizdale took his team’s veterans to task after Memphis squandered a 17-point halftime lead and lost to the Celtics in overtime on Tuesday.
“Our leadership stunk the last three games,” he said before Wednesday’s game. “That’s the truth. I’m a truth machine.”
Fizdale wasn’t surprised that Gasol responded.
“That’s his level,” the coach said. “He’s a great player, and I’m always going to continue to challenge him to be the best. He just really wanted this game tonight.”
The Grizzlies are no 8-0 in the second game of back-to-backs.
“We just think about the task we have that night,” Gasol said. “We don’t think about the game last night. We just try to accomplish our goals for the game we have in front of us and move on. That’s why it works for us.”
He scored 14 points in the third quarter as the Grizzlies built an 18-point lead, and the Pistons wouldn’t get closer than seven points the rest of the way.
“When your jumper is going, it opens up many different options,” Gasol said. “Obviously, when you’re making shots, everything looks a lot easier.”