The Oklahoma City Thunder rolled into the NBA’s All-Star break with a 121-95 victory over the New Orleans Pelicans on Thursday, aided by 23 points apiece from Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant.
On what was an emotional night, Westbrook was one rebound shy of his ninth triple double of the season as he collected 10 assists and nine rebounds.
Durant connected on 10 of 17 from the field and also handed out six assists as Oklahoma City improved to 40-14.
The Thunder are one of three Western Conference teams heading into the All-Star break with at least 40 wins, behind the Golden State Warriors (48-4) and San Antonio Spurs (45-8).
According to Elias Sports, the statistics expert, that’s a first for any conference in NBA history.
“I think we are great, man,” Westbrook said of the Thunder’s position. “Forty wins, I like where we are. Looking to come back in the second half of the season and turn it up a notch.”
Centre Anthony Davis scored 23 points to lead the Pelicans, but was limited to three rebounds and no blocked shots.
Guard Jrue Holiday came off the bench to score 23 points and six assists as the Pelicans, ravaged by injury this season, fell to 20-33.
The contest had a somber note, despite the approach of the weekend of festivities built around Sunday’s All-Star game in Toronto.
Ingrid Williams, wife of Oklahoma City assistant coach and former New Orleans head coach Monty Williams, died in a road accident on Tuesday and the news hit both teams hard.
“I thought about what I was going to say, but I just love coach Monty so much,” Durant said. “I feel for him. And it’s somebody we all love, I just don’t understand.”
Davis was one of the Pelicans players who remembered Ingrid Williams as being like a second mother when her husband coached them.
“It was tough, but you have to still go out there and compete,” Davis said. “That’s what we tried to do tonight.”
Bucks down Wizards
In Milwaukee, Khris Middleton scored 14 of his 27 points in the fourth quarter as the Bucks defeated the Washington Wizards 99-92.
Forwards Jabari Parker and Giannis Antetokounmpo added 17 points each for the Bucks, and centre Greg Monroe chipped in 12 points and nine rebounds.
Five Washington players scored in double figures, led by the 19 points of guard Bradley Beal.
John Wall added 15 for Washington while Otto Porter, Marcin Gortat and Nene scored 14 points apiece.
Mudiay, Booker get skills nod
Denver Nuggets guard Emmanuel Mudiay and Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker were named as substitutes for two of the All-Star Game warm-up events.
Mudiay will replace injured defending champion Patrick Beverley in the Skills Challenge that tests dribbling, passing, shooting and agility on an obstacle course.
Beverley will miss the Saturday competition with an ankle injury.
Booker replaces injured Nerlens Noel of the Philadelphia 76ers in Friday’s Rising Stars Challenge, which features first- and second-year players from the United States against overseas players in their rookie and sophomore seasons.