Russell Westbrook

Yes, Westbrook averages a triple-double -- but they're a lot cheaper these days

Yes, Westbrook averages a triple-double -- but they're a lot cheaper these days

I've heard a lot of people saying that Russell Westbrook should automatically be the NBA's Most Valuable Player simply because he's averaging a triple-double this season.

That's a great achievement, without a doubt. But this is also a season when triple-doubles have been more plentiful than any other time in NBA history.

On March 4, when Ricky Rubio recorded a triple-double, it was the 79th of the season in the league -- which broke a record for triple-doubles in the league set during the 1988-89 season. And as of right now, there have been 108 triple-doubles this season. That's an incredible jump over the old record of 78. And 10 players have had multiple triple-doubles, 22 players have had at least one.

Why has that happened? I'm not sure but I would guess it has something to do with the court being so spread in the league right now. Teams are attempting so many three-point shots that it has resulted in the court being more wide open than ever. I would assume that means it's easier for guards to get rebounds these days than it was when the big guys packed the paint and dominated the scoring. And after all, rebounds are the toughest category to crack for guards, who have the inside track on piling up assists and points.

So, what I'm saying, I guess, is that triple-doubles are so much cheaper now than they EVER have been in the NBA. Why suddenly make them such a big deal?

Peaking Blazers come back and beat Thunder behind strong finish

Peaking Blazers come back and beat Thunder behind strong finish

OKLAHOMA CITY – If it wasn’t the win of the season for the Trail Blazers, it was up there on Tuesday when the Blazers came back from 14 down, then held off a furious 58-point performance from Russell Westbrook to beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 126-121 at Chesapeake Energy Arena.

Jusuf Nurkic made two big baskets inside in the final minute to break a tie at 116 and the Blazers rode the hot shooting of Allen Crabbe, the superb defense of Al-Farouq Aminu and clutch free throw shooting from CJ McCollum to win three in a row for the first time since Nov. 30-Dec. 5.

The Blazers’ surge couldn’t come at a better time, as their best basketball is coming as the playoff race in the West tightens. Portland (27-35) moved to within 1.5 games of Denver for the eighth and final playoff spot with 20 games left. Twelve of the Blazers’ final 20 games are at home.

Nurkic continued to be a season-changing addition for the Blazers, as he finished with 17 points, eight rebounds and four assists, and Aminu has proven to be a difference maker when he is healthy. He had 12 points and seven rebounds and three blocks, including two at the rim in key moments in the fourth quarter.

Meanwhile, Crabbe led the Blazers with 23 points on 7-of-10 shooting, showing an assertiveness seldom seen this season. He led a bench unit that turned the game around in the second quarter, as Shabazz Napier and Aminu led the defense and Crabbe and Meyers Leonard (12 points) provided an offensive spark.

Westbrook set his career-high with 58 points, and added nine assists and three rebounds, but he shot 21-of-39, which included 6-of-19 down the stretch.

Oklahoma City took at 67-61 halftime lead in a rip-roaring first half that saw the Thunder shoot 67.6 percent and the Blazers 55 percent. Westbrook had 28 points by halftime as the Blazers alternated defenders between Lillard and Maurice Harkless.

The Thunder led by as many as 14 in the first quarter, but the Blazers’ second unit opened the second quarter on an 11-0 and 14-2 run, which was keyed by the defense of  Napier and Aminu and the offense of Allen Crabbe and Meyers Leonard.

Notes: Damian Lillard set the franchise mark with a three-pointer in his 42nd consecutive game, breaking the mark held by Clifford Robinson in the 1995-1996 season … The Blazers announced that Ed Davis underwent successful surgery on his left shoulder on Tuesday. He is expected to be back for the start of the 2017-2018 training camp. 

Next up: Philadelphia at Blazers, 7 p.m. Thursday (CSN).


Trail Blazers storm back, then hold on, to beat Oklahoma City

Trail Blazers storm back, then hold on, to beat Oklahoma City

A Trail Blazers team that has a hard time finishing games exorcised some ghosts Thursday with a late-game avalanche that buried the Oklahoma City Thunder and resuscitated some life into Portland’s playoff hopes.

Portland went on a 16-0 run – holding the Thunder scoreless from 5:42 until 59 seconds left – then held on through some shaky last minute play to beat Oklahoma City 114-109 in one of the better games at the Moda Center this season.

With a buzz in the arena to start the fourth after a fan -- Peter Crum of Beaverton -- hit a halfcourt shot to win a Toyota, the Blazers erased an eight-point deficit behind the play of Jusuf Nurkic and turned it into a 110-101 lead with 1:37 left.

But Oklahoma City came back, getting to within 110-109 after Alex Abrines hit a three-pointer – the third Thunder shot attempt of the possession. The Thunder comeback was fueled when the Blazers threw away two passes and Damian Lillard had a shot blocked.

The Blazers (25-35) finally sealed it when Lillard hit two free throws with 14.1 seconds left and Oklahoma City star Russell Westbrook missed a wide open three-pointer with 8.4 seconds left.

"A good win to get at home,'' coach Terry Stotts said.

Lillard led the Blazers with 33 points and Nurkic, making his Moda Center debut, had 18 points, 12 rebounds, a career-high six assists and a career-high tying five blocks.

"Dame did what Dame does – and Jusuf was terrific,'' Stotts said. "(Jusuf) had a big impact on the game – rebounding, blocked shots, passing.''

Westbrook led Oklahoma City (35-26) with 45 points, seven rebounds and four assists and Enes Kanter came off the bench with 18 points and 10 rebounds.

Oklahoma City led 85-81 heading into the fourth quarter after Lillard and Westbrook were involved in a shootout for much of the quarter. Lillard hit back-to-back three’s, which were sandwiched by a Westbrook three, setting the tone for a quarter when Westbrook scored 13 and Lillard 12.

Oklahoma City took a 60-57 halftime lead in incredible fashion when Taj Gibson heaved a 61-foot shot that swished at the buzzer. The shot was set up when Portland with 2.8 seconds inserted Pat Connaughton to inbound, and his three-quarter court pass went off the finger tips of Nurkic and into the hands of Gibson, who immediately threw a football-like shot at the rim.

Portland from the jump was as sharp and exhilarating as it had been all season and had the Moda Center crowd standing as it built a 20-8 lead behind some explosive drives from Lillard and nifty passing and footwork from Nurkic. But the Thunder scrapped back and was within 26-24 after Gibson spectacularly dunked a miss with 17.8 seconds left.

Aminu had 14 points and six rebounds and CJ McCollum had 18 points while Maurice Harkless added 10 points and nine rebounds. 

Next up: Brooklyn at Blazers, 7 p.m. Saturday (KGW)


Blazers' fourth-quarter woes continue in loss to Thunder

Blazers' fourth-quarter woes continue in loss to Thunder

OKLAHOMA CITY --  We have seen this show before, right? The Trail Blazers played the Oklahoma City Thunder on even terms most of the game,  even led them at halftime and after the third quarter, but lost the fourth quarter and then the game.

Portland was outscored 34-26 in the fateful final period and dropped its record to 22-30 for the season.

Another discouraging loss for a team that can't seem to put its collective finger on what's wrong. Which makes it very difficult to repair whatever the problem is, of course.

That is becoming the story of this season.

"It's frustrating," said Damian Lillard, who led Portland with 29 points. "I do think we competed. Like I said, we didn't come out here and not have a chance to win. We were in position to win the game, once again. Like many games we have had this season we had opportunities that we didn't always take advantage of, whether that was a free throw that Russ (Westbrook) missed and then got the rebound or something else.

"And then at the other end, when we got opportunities we didn't always take advantage of them. We got open looks that we didn't knock down. Sometimes we didn't move the ball maybe the way we needed to."

In the critical fourth quarter the Thunder hit 11 of their 18 shots and Portland made 10 of 22. Not a huge difference there, really. But OKC hit three of its five three-point shots while the Blazers were making just two of nine. And coming into that period, the Thunder had hit just one of 13 from three while Portland had made eight of 19.

And of course rebounding was a problem all afternoon. A big one. Oklahoma City had a 56-44 edge with a whopping 17 offensive rebounds. The Trail Blazers were very fortunate that the Thunder had a terrible time connecting on a lot of tips and easy putbacks that would have markedly changed this game.

"I thought our defensive rebounding was a challenge all night," Portland coach Terry Stotts said. "We were fortunate that they missed some of their opportunities. ... But that's what they do. They are a paint team, whether it's driving in the paint or getting offensive rebounds."

The Thunder defense was also very good at protecting the rim when the Portland guards beat their defender off the dribble and got into the lane. Several times Lillard or CJ McCollum got into the paint in areas where they are usually able to finish with a reverse layup or floater, only to be foiled by the OKC big men.

Size matters and the Thunder certainly have an edge over the Trail Blazers in that department. And at just about every position.

But the real edge OKC has on every team is Russell Westbrook, who is as close to a one-man team as there is in the NBA. The Blazers kept the perpetual-motion machine from another triple-double (he had four rebounds and eight assists) but he burned them for 42 points.

"He got 34 shots," Lillard said. "When he shoots that much he's going to score."

Portland moves on to yet another difficult game Tuesday night in Dallas against the Mavericks, who won in Portland just last week.



Westbrook hammers Portland with his scoring

Westbrook hammers Portland with his scoring

OKLAHOMA CITY – Russell Westbrook didn't get off to a very good start but in the end he polished off the Trail Blazers. Oklahoma City posted a 105-99 win over Portland Sunday afternoon behind Westbrook's 42 points.

Westbrook, who didn’t come close to the triple-double he has been averaging, beat Portland with his scoring, hitting 16 of his 34 shots from the field.

The Trail Blazers kept it close for three quarters but ran out of gas in the fourth.

At halftime Portland had a 52-46 lead, on the strength of the two guards. Lillard had 16 points and McCollum totaled 10 as each went 4-10 from the field. But Lillard was 3-4 from three-point range.

The Trail Blazers shot 45.2 percent from the field in the first half but hit 8 of their 14 three-point attempts.

Westbrook was just 4-13 in the first half with only one rebound and six assists.

The Thunder shot only 31 percent in the first and made ony 1 of 11 threes. Oklahoma City stayed in the game, though, on the strength of 13 offensive rebounds – eight of them by center Steven Adams.

The Trail Blazers had trouble with OKC’s defense in the first quarter – and on the boards.  They were outrebounded 19-10 in the first 12 minutes and also had six turnovers.

But Portland wiped away the slow start with the solid second quarter, outscoring the Thunder 36-22 in the period.




Trail Blazers end losing streak with rout of Oklahoma City

Trail Blazers end losing streak with rout of Oklahoma City

The Trail Blazers' four-game losing streak is over, and they have their defense to thank for busting the streak.

Behind a physical and active defense, the Blazers beat Oklahoma City 114-95 at the Moda Center, keeping star Russell Westbrook in check while holding the Thunder to their second lowest field goal percentage of the season.

Mason Plumlee had 18 points and seven rebounds and Damian Lillard had 17 points and nine assists, but it was the Blazers' defense that was the star of the game as Portland held its ground inside and had active hands that frustrated the division-leading Thunder. Oklahoma City (15-10) shot 37.9 percent from the field, only the second time this season they were held below 40 percent. It was the fifth time this season Portland has held an opponent under 40 percent shooting. The Blazers are 5-0 in those games. 

Westbrook, the Thunder star who entered with averages of 31.1 points, 10.9 rebounds and 11.0 assists, went 7-for-19 from the field and finished with 20 points, six rebounds and six assists. 

The Blazers led 68-52 at halftime -- the eighth consecutive game Portland has held a halftime lead -- in large part because of an interior defense that repeatedly repelled Oklahoma City's drives and held its ground against Oklahoma City big men Steven Adams and Enes Kanter. The Thunder, which entered the game ranked 23rd out of 30 NBA teams with 15.8 turnvoers a game, committed 20 on Tuesday.

The win ended a season-long four-game losing streak for the Blazers, a streak in which the Blazers (13-14) felt they could have won each game, but instead had to swallow a last-second loss in Memphi, a blown 20-point lead in Indiana and some controversial calls in a one-point loss at the Clippers. 

The Thunder led by nine early on at 20-11, but Ed Davis came in and changed the tenor of the game with stellar interior defense. He was credited with a block, but he altered several other shots and had his hands in the middle of a six minute spurt when the Blazers outscored Oklahoma City by 10.

Al-Farouq Aminu missed the game because of a back injury, one game after he returned and started. Noah Vonleh took his place in the starting lineup and recorded five points and four rebounds in 18 minutes. Vonleh left briefly after absorbing a big fall in the third quarter that was similar to the fall that Aminu took in Memphis which injured his back.

Notes: Oklahoma City played without starting guard Victor Oladipo, who has a wrist injury. Jerami Grant started in his place and finished with 11 points ... Thunder rookie Domantas Sabonis, the son of former Blazers star Arvydas Sabonis, started and had five points and four rebounds ... Former Yankees star Derek Jeter watched the game courtside with Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia. 

Next up: Blazers at Denver, 6 p.m. Thursday (CSN)