x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Westbrook returns and Thunder trump Suns

The Oklahoma City point guard played a pivotal role in a 103-96 win over Phoenix, scoring 21 points, after missing the entire pre-season and first two games of the regular season.

Russell Westbrook played in his first game of the NBA season on Sunday night. Sue Ogrocki / AP
Russell Westbrook played in his first game of the NBA season on Sunday night. Sue Ogrocki / AP


OKLAHOMA CITY, Oklahoma // Russell Westbrook, who missed the entire pre-season and Oklahoma City’s first two games of the NBA campaign, scored 21 points in his return Sunday to spark the Thunder over Phoenix 103-96.

Westbrook tore the meniscus in his right knee in the second game of last year’s first-round playoff series between the Thunder and Houston.

The star guard underwent two operations to repair the damage and was expected to miss between four and six weeks of the regular season before team doctors cleared him to make his return against the visiting Suns.

Westbrook went 11-of-14 from the free throw line and passed out seven assists. He made four free throws in the last seconds to clinch Oklahoma City’s victory.

Thunder star Kevin Durant scored a game-high 33 points and pulled down 10 rebounds while Reggie Jackson, who started in place of Westbrook in the first two games, came off the bench to contribute 10 points and five assists.

Phoenix lost for the first time in three games and saw point guard Goran Dragic suffer a sprained ankle early in the second half.

Eric Bledsoe scored 26 points and passed off a career-high 14 assists for the Suns, who also had 21 points from Gerald Green and 19 from Channing Frye.

Durant sparked a 17-6 run that gave the Thunder a 90-85 lead. Green pulled Phoenix within 97-95 witha late 3-pointer but Westbrook sealed the triumph from the line.

A loose stitch last month had caused swelling and a setback in Westbrook’s recovery but he appeared to have the speed and explosiveness that made him a threat in past seasons.

“Russell Westbrook has gone through a methodical rehab process jointly created by our medical and performance teams and treating physicians,” Thunder general manager Sam Presti said.

“The process has been instrumental in getting Russell to this point and has included various physical and medical benchmarks. The final benchmark being unrestricted basketball activity.”

Westbrook, selected fourth overall by the Thunder in the 2008 NBA Draft, averaged 23.2 points, 5.2 rebounds and 7.4 assists a game last season.


Timberwolves 109, Knicks 100

Kevin Love registered his third double-double in as many games with 34 points and 15 rebounds to lead the Minnesota Timberwolves to a 3-0 start.

Carmelo Anthony, the NBA’s leading scorer last season, led the Knicks with 22 points as the team fell to 1-2.

Love, who entered the game ranked third in the league in scoring (27.5 ppg) and second in rebounding (14.5), missed 62 games last season to an injury to his right hand but is off to a strong campaign.

Heat 103, Wizards 93

The Miami Heat snapped an uncharacteristic two-game losing streak, defeating the Washington Wizards.

The defending NBA champions were led by LeBron James with 25 points and five assists. Chris Bosh added 24 points and seven rebounds. Dwyane Wade had 20 points.

Shaking off their recent form, Miami led 87-64 after three quarters before Washington shrunk the final deficit in the fourth.

Magic 107, Nets 86

Rookie reserve guard Victor Oladipo, the No. 2 pick of the NBA Draft, scored 19 points in 21 minutes to spark the Orlando Magic to an upset victory over the veteran-laden Brooklyn Nets and ruin the debut of head coach Jason Kidd.

The Nets (1-2) faltered despite beating the Miami Heat two days earlier. Brook Lopez led the Nets with 21 points and Paul Pierce had 16.

Kidd missed the first two games with a suspension.

Pistons 87, Celtics 77

Detroit’s frontcourt trio of Andre Drummond, Josh Smith and Greg Monroe had 15 points apiece and combined for 29 rebounds to lead the Pistons to a victory over winless Boston.

Point guard Brandon Jennings, acquired in a blockbuster deal with Milwaukee during the summer, made his Pistons debut after sitting out the first two games with a partially fractured jaw. He contributed 14 points, four assists and four steals.

Lakers 105, Hawks 103

Los Angeles ended the third quarter up 12 but had to hold off Atlanta’s fourth-quarter flurry. Kyle Korver led all scorers with 22 points in the loss and hit all six of his three-point attempts, while Xavier Henry picked up 18 points to lead the Lakers.

Pau Gasol collected 13 rebounds and 16 points in a double-double in the victory.