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Westbrook strikes again

12:00 AM December 19, 2016
Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook AP

Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook AP

OKLAHOMA CITY—Russell Westbrook had a career-high 22 assists in his 50th career triple-double to lead the Oklahoma City Thunder to a 114-101 victory over the Phoenix Suns on Saturday.

“My teammates did a great job of spacing, catching and finishing, making some shots,” he said. “My job is to be able to find those guys. The ball is in my hands a lot.”

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Westbrook also scored 26 points and grabbed 11 rebounds in his 13th triple-double of the season,  less than a week after his rare streak of seven straight triple-doubles ended.

He had gone three games without one, yet the league’s leading scorer continues to average double figures in points, rebounds and assists.

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Westbrook set up his teammates for much of the night, but he also showed why he averages more than 30 points per game. He scored 17 points on 5-for-9 shooting in the third quarter to help the Thunder push their lead out to 20 points.

“As the game goes on, I read and kind of see what’s open,” he said. “And I can go back to different things that I see that’s open and try to find ways to be assertive and when not to be. That’s just something I’ve learned over the years.”

Steven Adams had 19 points and seven rebounds and Enes Kanter added 12 points for Oklahoma City, which had dropped two in a row. Thunder guard Victor Oladipo, the team’s No. 2 scorer for the season, missed his third straight game with a right wrist sprain.

Devin Booker scored 31 points for the Suns, who have lost six of eight.

The Thunder led 54-39 at halftime.

Westbrook had 12 assists before the break, a Thunder record for a half. Phoenix’s first-half scoring total matched the lowest allowed by the Thunder in a half all season.

It took Westbrook a while to get to double figures in points—he finally got there on a free throw with 8:41 left in the third quarter. He was stuck on nine rebounds when he went to the bench, 2:35 left in the third.

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He re-entered the game with 8:44 to play and he got his 10th rebound almost immediately upon his return.

“He is putting up phenomenal numbers,” Suns center Tyson Chandler said.  “I think it really just comes down to heart, passion and will.”

In Los Angeles, reigning champion Cleveland Cavaliers pulled off a 119-108 victory over the Lakers.

LeBron James scored 26 points, including 16 in the fourth quarter. Kyrie Irving had 21 points and matched his career high with 12 assists and Kevin Love scored 27 points and pulled down 17 rebounds a night after Cavs coach Tyronn Lue rested the star trio.   —AP, AFP

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