Much like a pair of superheroes teaming up to wreak havoc on their foes, Russell Westbrook and Paul George proved unstoppable in the face of a seemingly insurmountable deficit Wednesday at Barclays Center.
Just how bleak was the Thunder’s situation against the Nets?
Down 23 midway through the third quarter and as many as 20 in the fourth, they were given less than a 1 percent chance of rallying for victory by ESPN’s Game Probability model.
But much like Brooklyn’s defense, those odds meant nothing to the Thunder — and more specifically, Westbrook and George.
Westbrook continued his march up the career triple-double chart, passing Jason Kidd for third with 21 points, 15 rebounds and 17 assists. It was triple-double No. 108 for Westbrook, marking only the 34th time in NBA history that a player has totaled at least 20, 15 and 15 in those categories.
George’s 47 points and 15 rebounds weren’t as rare, but might have been even more impressive. More than half his scoring output (25) came over the final 7:11, including the go-ahead 3-pointer — off a Westbrook assist, naturally — with 3.1 seconds left.
Per ESPN Stats, George had previously been 0-for-14 in his career on go-ahead shots in the final 10 seconds. But having watched George torch his team throughout the fourth, Nets reserve Jared Dudley knew it was down before it left his hand.
— The Render (@TheRenderNBA) December 6, 2018
Westbrook then essentially killed the Nets’ final possession with a deflection that left them just 0.1 second to attempt the last shot, completing a remarkable 114-112 triumph for the Thunder. It was a fitting piece of dirty work by Westbrook, who took only two shots while dishing out five assists in the fourth as he gave George plenty of space to sizzle.
Driven by their two superstars, the Thunder outscored the Nets 39-19 in the final period to register the largest comeback since the team moved to Oklahoma City in 2009. Of more immediate concern, it was also their 16th win in 19 outings following an 0-4 start.
“This was a special night,” said George, who missed his career scoring high by one point. “We came together when our backs were against the wall and we showed who we are.”
OKC’s dynamic duo highlighted a score of monster performances:
* LeBron James scored 20 of his 42 points in the fourth, leading the Lakers past the Spurs 121-113.
* Stephen Curry lit up the Cavaliers for 42 points, including 25 in the first half.
* Jimmy Butler outscored Kawhi Leonard 38-36, but Leonard got the last laugh with a 113-102 victory.
* Bradley Beal picked up the slack for the absent John Well with 36 points and nine assists against the Hawks.
* Karl-Anthony Towns overpowered the Hornets for 35 points, 12 rebounds and six blocks.
And that’s just scraping the surface. Check out NBA.com/stats for a complete rundown on Wednesday’s top performers.
Four straight Finals matchups etched the Warriors-Cavaliers rivalry among the best in NBA history.
”It was historical,” said Curry, whose team claimed three of those four Finals battles, including the final two. ”I’ll definitely sit back on the couch in 10 or 12 years when it’s all over and think about what it was like to play (in Cleveland), and how high the stakes were every time we came into this building.”
But with LeBron James having departed for L.A. over the offseason, there were no stakes to speak of as the Warriors visited Quicken Loans Arena outside another date on the 82-game schedule.
And the defending champions played like it during the first half, trailing by six at the break despite Stephen Curry’s 25 points.
But as they’re wont to do, the Warriors awoke with devastating results. Curry added 17 more in the second, and Kevin Durant hit a flurry of 3s en route to 25 points for the game as the Warriors outscored the Cavaliers by 30 over the final 24 minutes.
Despite the impressive finish, the Warriors couldn’t help but look back at the way things were.
”It’s not a rivalry, it’s another game,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said wistfully. ”Part of me is a little nostalgic for that.”
Plagued by injuries in recent years and jobless after being waived by the Knicks in October, former All-Star Joakim Noah wasn’t sure if he would ever play in the NBA again.
That moment finally came with the Grizzlies in their 96-86 win over the Clippers, more than 11 months after his most recent outing in January. Noah scored only four points in 13 minutes, a far cry from his peak. But at this point, after seeing his career flash before his eyes, he’s just glad to be back on the court in any capacity he can.
“I’m really happy,” an emotional Noah said. “I don’t expect anything anymore. I’ve been in this league for a while now. Sometimes you take it for granted because there are so many games. Then you (can’t play), it just feels good to be here in a locker room after a win, and feel that energy.”
Joakim Noah, searching for the right words in the locker room after playing his first NBA game since Jan. 23.
I asked him if he expected to play 13 minutes tonight. “I don’t expect anything anymore. I don’t expect anything.” pic.twitter.com/VcPmOfUVXB
— Omari Sankofa II (@omarisankofa) December 6, 2018
Quote of the Night
“Have you watched LeBron play before?” — Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, asked what makes James so difficult to guard.
Living it up
No one can accuse Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry of not enjoying his job.
Raptors keeping it light before tonight’s big game. 😂😂😂
— Yahoo Sports NBA (@YahooSportsNBA) December 6, 2018
About Last Night: Legendary Lakers
Triple-doubles are rare enough. Even rarer is the air in which two teammates accomplish the feat on the same night.
That’s what happened in Charlotte on Saturday, where LeBron James (24 points, 12 rebounds, 11 assists) and Lonzo Ball (16 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists) each logged a triple-double in L.A.’s 128-100 rout over the Hornets.
The Laker duo becomes just the eighth set of teammates in NBA history to earn triple-doubles in the same game. Jason Kidd and Vince Carter were the most recent teammates to accomplish the feat, having done so on April 7, 2007. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Magic Johnson did it for the Lakers in 1982.
The complete list –
Lakers vs. Hornets, Dec. 2018: LeBron James (24 points, 12 rebounds, 11 assists), Lonzo Ball (16 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists).
Nets vs. Wizards, April 2007: Vince Carter (46 points, 16 rebounds, 10 assists), Jason Kidd (10 points, 16 rebounds, 18 assists).
Clippers vs. Bulls, Jan. 1989: Michael Jordan (41 points, 10 rebounds, 11 assists), Scottie Pippen (15 points, 10 rebounds, 12 assists))
Celtics vs. 76ers, March 1987: Larry Bird 17 points, 13 rebounds, 12 assists), Robert Parrish (14 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists).
Lakers vs. Pistons, Dec. 1982: Magic Johnson (26 points, 16 rebounds, 12 assists), Kareem Abdul-Jabbar 19 points, 10 rebounds, 10 blocks).
SuperSonics vs. Rockets, March 1969: Lenny Wilkens (36 points, 14 rebounds, 14 assists), Art Harris (14 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists).
Pistons vs. Knicks. March 1964: Ray Scott (23 points, 20 rebounds, 11 assists), Donnie Butcher (19 points, 15 rebounds, 15 assists).
Royals vs. Warriors, Jan. 1962: Oscar Robertson (28 points, 14 rebounds, 16 assists), Bucky Buckhorn (19 points, 10 rebounds, 12 assists)
Harden heating up
Speaking of triple-doubles, James Harden had himself one in Houston’s 105-97 win over Memphis. The reigning Kia MVP finished with 32 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists, marking the seventh time in his career he had logged triple-doubles in back-to-back games.
Houston’s all-time record when Harden rings up all those double figures: 31-7.
Devin Booker is back and maybe, just maybe, better times are ahead for the woebegone Phoenix Suns. The fourth-year guard led Phoenix to a 107-99 win over Minnesota, amassing 28 points, seven rebounds and seven assists.
The victory gave Phoenix its first consecutive wins of the season — and their first such streak since Dec. 29, 2017.
Oh yeah, and it looks like they’ll be trading Trevor Ariza after all.
Get yourself a friend like…
Kyle Kuzma, who made sure LeBron didn’t resume play without addressing a flaw in his otherwise flawless beard.
Bulls Finnish strong
No Zach LaVine. Down 21 on the road. Normally those two factors would have made a Bulls loss a foregone conclusion.
Not this time. Lauri Markkanen spearheaded Chicago’s second-half comeback in which he and Kris Dunn (29 second-half points combined) nearly outscored the entire Spurs team (31) after halftime. In the end, it was the Bulls who wound up as unlikely victors at the Alamo.
Markkanen finished with 23 points, his second 20-point performance in nine days — with the Bulls winning both of those games.
A cappella only, please
Sorry, Lance, but no air guitars allowed while celebrating.
Grizzlies GM Wallace dubs failed trade ‘unfathomable’
Chris Wallace has been in the NBA since 1986. He’s seen and done a lot as a front office executive.
On Saturday, the Grizzlies’ general manager told reporters he hadn’t seen anything quite like the three-team trade between Memphis, Phoenix and Washington that ultimately fell through.
“What happened last night was unfathomable. I’ve never experienced this before,” Wallace told reporters.
The Grizzlies, Suns and Wizards had a deal in place that would have sent swingman Trevor Ariza to Washington, Kelly Oubre to Memphis and Austin Rivers to Phoenix. When reports differed as to whether the Suns were acquiring Dillon or MarShon Brooks from Memphis, however, the deal fell apart. Phoenix insisted on Dillon Brooks, while Memphis maintained it had intended to deal MarShon Brooks all along.
Neither team was willing to yield on its stated preference, leaving Phoenix and Washington to agree on a two-team trade the following day. Both Brooks, meanwhile, remain with the Grizzlies.
“That forced me to do something I’ve never done in 30-plus years working in this league with seven teams, is to drag two players out of a locker room and tell them they’ve been traded and then eventually have to come back and tell them, ‘Oh, no, you haven’t been traded,'” Wallace said.
“We ask a lot of these guys and we try to communicate with them at all times,” Wallace added. “We do not want them to know about trades from another party; we want to be the ones that tell them. We were forced to come in at that time and say something. That put us in a very difficult situation.”
James, Ball earn triple-doubles in same game
The meshing of LeBron James with the young Lakers now includes a significant milestone.
James and second-year guard Lonzo Ball each finished with a triple-double during the Lakers’ 128-100 rout at Charlotte on Saturday. The four-time Kia MVP finished with 24 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists before sitting out the fourth quarter. Ball amassed 16 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists before exiting with 6:54 remaining.
The Laker duo becomes just the eighth set of teammates in NBA history to earn triple-doubles in the same game. Jason Kidd and Vince Carter are the most recent teammates to accomplish the feat, having done so on April 7, 2007. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Magic Johnson did it for the Lakers in 1982.
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