There were only four games on Tuesday’s NBA schedule, headlined by Denver’s trip to Oakland to take on Golden State in a matchup of the Western Conference’s top two teams. That showdown would he overshadowed however, as Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook did something that only one other player in NBA history has ever done…and he did it in honor of a fallen friend. Below is a look at all that happened Tuesday night in the NBA, followed by some early injury notes for Wednesday’s loaded schedule.
Thunder 119, Lakers 103
Oklahoma City hosted the shorthanded Lakers and did what is to be expected of playoff-bound teams at this point in the season. But how it happened was not expected, specifically in relation to Russell Westbrook. While the 2017 NBA MVP has posted so many triple-doubles that they tend to be overlooked, he had never done what he did Tuesday to honor the late Nipsey Hussle. Westbrook, who dedicated the performance to his late friend, tallied 20 points (8-of-23 FGs, 2-of-3 FTs), 21 assists, 20 rebounds, three steals, two 3-pointers and two turnovers to lead the way for Oklahoma City. This was just the second 20/20/20 game in NBA history, with Wilt Chamberlain posting the first back in 1968. Over the last month, Westbrook has been a top-25 player in nine-category leagues and a top-10 player in eight-category leagues (punting turnovers).
All five Thunder starters finished the game in double figures, with Jerami Grant accounting for a team-high 22 points (8-of-15 FGs, 2-of-3 FTs) with five rebounds one assist, one steal and two 3-pointers. Paul George (19 points, six rebounds, five assists, five steals, one blocked shot and three 3-pointers) finished one point shy of a 20/5/5/5 line, and Terrance Ferguson his three 3-pointers on his way to a 15-point night.
Lastly Steven Adams accounted for 13 points, eight rebounds, five blocked shots, three assists and one steal, but he did suffer a head injury during the second quarter as he took an inadvertent shot from Moe Wagner. Adams, who in the immediate aftermath of the injury complained of not being able to hear out of his right ear, would leave the game just before halftime but he was able to return at the start of the second half. Adams and the Thunder are off until Friday when they host Detroit.
The Lakers’ lack of bodies, and the team having been eliminated from playoff contention for a couple weeks, has opened up playing time for guys who can use the opportunity to impress the team’s decision-makers ahead of the offseason. Alex Caruso accounted for 15 points, seven assists, two rebounds and one three-pointer in 29 minutes off the bench, but he also committed a team-high five turnovers. He was one of six Lakers to score in double figures, with Kentavious Caldwell-Pope leading the way with 23 points, five rebounds, four assists, one steal and five 3-pointers in a game-high 40 minutes.
Rodney Bullock added 13 points, three rebounds, one steal and three 3-pointers in his second game back, with the aforementioned Wagner (four rebounds, one assist, one steal and one blocked shot), JaVale McGee (eight rebounds, one assist and one steal) and Mike Muscala (three rebounds and one assist) scoring ten points apiece. This was Wagner’s second straight start, and the rookie out of Michigan looked a bit more comfortable than he did in Sunday’s win over the Pelicans. Rajon Rondo posted a stat line of seven points, ten rebounds, nine assists, one steal and one blocked shot.
Spurs 117, Hawks 111
In the only game that finished with a single-digit margin Tuesday, the Spurs beat the Hawks at home for the 21st straight time. DeMar DeRozan posted a line of 29 points, seven rebounds, seven assists and two steals, shooting 7-of-11 from the field and 15-of-16 from the foul line. Derrick White joined DeRozan in the 20-point club, shooting 10-of-12 from the field and finishing with 23 points, four rebounds, three assists, two blocked shots and three 3-pointers. White entered Tuesday averaging 9.2 points, 4.7 assists and 3.4 rebounds per game over his last ten outings, yet even with the comparatively low scoring average he’s still been a top-100 player in nine-category leagues over the last month.
Bryn Forbes (19 points, three assists, two rebounds and five 3-pointers), LaMarcus Aldridge (16 points, 11 rebounds and three blocked shots) and Patty Mills (14 points, two assists, one rebound, one steal, one blocked shot and four 3-pointers) also scored in double figures for San Antonio, with Rudy Gay grabbing 11 rebounds and dishing out four assists to make up for a 3-of-10 night from the field.
With John Collins (rest) having the night off, Vince Carter moved into the starting lineup for Atlanta. Carter played 28 minutes, finishing with eight points (3-of-5 FGs, 2-of-2 FTs), five assists and two rebounds. Alex Len and Kent Bazemore were Atlanta’s most successful players, with the former starting and accounting for 21 points, five rebounds, three assists, one steal, one blocked shot and four 3-pointers in 28 minutes. As for Bazemore, he shot 10-of-16 from the field and finished with a team-high 26 points to go along with four rebounds, three steals, two assists and five 3-pointers in 24 minutes played. Deyonta Davis (nine points, ten rebounds and two steals) and Isaac Humphries (four points, five rebounds and one steal), who was just signed, played 20 and 18 minutes, respectively.
Kevin Huerter shot 6-of-11 from the field on his way to 13 points along with two rebounds, two steals, one assist and one blocked shot, and Trae Young shot just 5-of-15 from the field (0-of-6 3-pointers) and posted a line of 15 points, six assists, one rebound and one steal. Justin Anderson made his third consecutive start, but after going off for 24 points in Sunday’s win over Milwaukee he wasn’t nearly as effective in San Antonio. He shot 3-of-8 from the field, scoring seven points to go along with nine rebounds, one steal and one three-pointer in 26 minutes played. Atlanta’s back in action Wednesday night against Philadelphia, and with the team in action Tuesday the preliminary injury report has yet to be released.
Rockets 130, Kings 105
The Rockets fell one three-pointer short of NBA history, as their 26 made triples only tied the single-game mark. James Harden played just 29 minutes but he was very effective while on the court, putting up a line of 36 points (12-of-19 FGs, 5-of-6 FTs), ten assists, three rebounds, one steal, seven 3-pointers and two turnovers. Over the last month, Harden has been the best player in both eight- and nine-category leagues. In total Houston had five double-digit scorers, with Eric Gordon and Danuel House Jr. scoring 19 apiece, P.J. Tucker 13 and Kenneth Faried 12 to go along with 11 rebounds. Both of Houston’s big men reached double figures in rebounds, with Clint Capela grabbing 13, and Chris Paul racked up a team-high 12 assists.
The lone injury “concern” was guard Austin Rivers, who appeared to have the wind knocked out of him as he collided with Sacramento’s Caleb Swanigan with 1:22 remaining in the fourth quarter. Rivers (six points, two three-pointers, one assist and one steal) remained on the court for a bit before being checked out by team trainers during the timeout, but he was able to stay in the game. Gerald Green (left adductor strain) hasn’t played since March 22, and his absence has opened up minutes for the aforementioned House. Over his last nine games, House has averaged 10.3 points and 3.7 rebounds in 28 minutes per while shooting 47.0% from the field and 44.6% from beyond the arc.
Buddy Hield led five Kings in double figures with 20 points to go along with seven rebounds, five assists, four 3-pointers and one blocked shot in a team-high 33 minutes. Marvin Bagley III, who missed Sunday’s win over San Antonio, tallied 19 points, eight rebounds, one assist, one blocked shot and two 3-pointers in 28 minutes off the bench. Nemanja Bjelica (12 points, six rebounds, one assist and one steal), Harrison Barnes (ten points, five rebounds and one assist) and Bogdan Bogdanovic (ten points, two assists and one steal) also reached double figures.
With Harry Giles (groin) done for the season there are some available minutes in the post, and on Tuesday Kosta Koufos played ten minutes (seven points, two rebounds) and the aforementioned Swanigan (two rebounds) five. Given the size that Sacramento has even with Giles out of the lineup, it could be tough for Swanigan to earn quality minutes before the regular season comes to an end.
Warriors 116, Nuggets 102
This one wasn’t as close as many hoped, as Golden State took control in the second quarter by holding Denver to 19 points. DeMarcus Cousins, matched up with Denver’s Nikola Jokic for most of the night, put forth his best effort of the season to date as he shot 12-of-17 from the field and finished with 28 points, 12 rebounds, five assists, two steals, two blocked shots and two 3-pointers in 29 minutes. Over the last month, Cousins has been a top-40 player in both eight- and nine-category leagues.
Kevin Durant also surpassed the 20-point mark, as he scored 21 (9-of-13 FGs) with six assists, three rebounds, two blocked shots and two 3-pointers. But he only played 21 minutes, as the perennial All-Star was ejected with just over eight minutes remaining in the third quarter. Durant’s absence did not have an adverse effect on the Warriors, who simply kept rolling, but he is now up to 15 technical fouls on the season. One more, and Durant will have to serve an automatic one-game suspension.
Stephen Curry (17 points, five rebounds, five assists, three steals and five 3-pointers), Klay Thompson (13 points, four rebounds, one assist, one steal and one three-pointer) and Kevon Looney (ten points, five rebounds, one assist, one steal and one three-pointer) also scored in double figures. And Draymond Green put up a line of six points, nine rebounds, nine assists, two blocked shots and one steal in 30 minutes of action.
On the Denver side of things, Jokic once again had a tough time getting going against Golden State. After posting a line of 23 points, 11 rebounds and six assists in the first meeting between the teams on October 21, Jokic has scored 17, 16 and ten points in the following three meetings between the teams. Thursday night he shot 4-of-10 from the field, scoring ten points to go along with five rebounds, five assists, four steals and six turnovers in 28 minutes. Cousins did not play in the first two meetings between the teams, which were also the games in which Jokic posted his highest point totals against Golden State this season.
Seven Nuggets scored in double figures, with Jamal Murray (17 points, four rebounds, five steals, three assists and one three-pointer leading the way. Paul Millsap posted a line of 11 points, eight rebounds, two assists, one blocked shot and two 3-pointer, with Monte Morris, Isaiah Thomas and Jarred Vanderbilt added ten points apiece. Vanderbilt scored his ten points in just seven minutes played, as he made all four of his shots from the field while also grabbing three rebounds and picking up one steal. As for Thomas, his ten minutes were the most that he’s played in a game since March 8. Thomas played 15 minutes in that game, a blowout loss to the Warriors, so the circumstances were similar. This isn’t a situation in which he’s suddenly back in the Nuggets’ perimeter rotation as the regular season winds down.