OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Russell Westbrook donned a mask and played like a superhero.
The All-Star Game MVP set career highs with 49 points and 16 rebounds, and added 10 assists for his fourth consecutive triple-double, helping the Oklahoma City Thunder defeat the Philadelphia 76ers 123-118 in overtime Wednesday night.
Westbrook wore the facial protection after having a bone in his right cheek fractured last Friday against Portland. He had surgery Saturday and missed Sunday’s game against the Los Angeles Lakers.
He returned to the lineup in style. Westbrook became the first player since Michael Jordan in 1989 to have four consecutive triple-doubles, according to STATS, and the first since Jordan that year to have back-to-back triple-doubles with at least 40 points. It was the most points by any player with a triple-double since Larry Bird also scored 49 in 1992.
Jordan had seven straight triple-doubles and 10 in an 11-game span in 1989 for Chicago.
“It’s definitely a blessing,” Westbrook said, “but more importantly, I think it’s important that we’re winning.”
He said the mask was little more than a nuisance.
“It was OK,” he said. “It was weird. Had to keep wiping it. It was a total big process of trying to keep everything from fogging up. That’s not going to stop me. My job is to come out and trying to lead my team.”
It was Westbrook’s sixth triple-double of the season and 14th of his career.
“It’s amazing watching him play,” 76ers guard Jason Richardson said. “You’ve got to take your hats off to this guy. He takes no plays off. He plays hard on both ends of the court. He rebounds. It’s amazing to see a guy who has that much passion about winning.”
Isaiah Canaan had career highs of 31 points and eight 3-pointers, and Richardson added 29 points for the 76ers.
Westbrook clinched the triple-double on a pass to D.J. Augustin for a 3-pointer that put the Thunder ahead 113-110 in overtime. Westbrook’s pull-up jumper with 38.9 seconds to play put the Thunder up by three, then Westbrook made the first of two free throws with 30.3 seconds left to make it 120-116.
Richardson’s two free throws made it a two-point game.
Westbrook made the second of two free throws with 21.9 seconds left to make it 121-118. The 76ers turned the ball over, and Westbrook made two more free throws to clinch the game.
Canaan was 5 of 5 on 3-pointers early to help the 76ers take a 32-17 lead with 3:30 left in the first quarter. The Thunder responded with a 15-0 run to tie the game, and Westbrook found Mitch McGary for a layup as time expired in the quarter to give the Thunder a 37-34 lead.
The 76ers led 59-56 at halftime, and Canaan’s eighth 3 pushed Philadelphia’s lead to 75-60 before Oklahoma City’s bench rallied late in the quarter and cut the deficit to 90-84 by the end of the period. Nick Collison’s layup tied it at 90 early in the fourth quarter.
The Thunder led 93-90 when Richardson went for a layup. McGary blocked it, and Richardson got a technical for arguing. Augustin’s technical free throw was the last point of an 18-0 run for Oklahoma City.
“The bench did a great job of coming in, making shots, locking down defensively, sped the pace up a little bit and made some big shots,” Westbrook said.
Westbrook made back-to baskets to push the lead to 108-99, the second with the crowd on its feet. Philadelphia called timeout, and the crowd broke into its loudest MVP chant yet for Westbrook.
Hollis Thompson’s 3-pointer with 55.2 seconds to play cut Oklahoma City’s lead to 110-107, and Richardson’s 3 with 27.1 seconds left tied the score, sending the game into overtime. Westbrook scored 10 points in the extra period.
“For those of you, including myself, that thought Russell might need a couple of games to get used to wearing a mask, we were wrong,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. “He was all over the floor.”
76ers: G Robert Covington sat out with a right elbow contusion. JaKarr Sampson started in his place and finished with seven points in 16 minutes. … Ish Smith, who was traded from the Thunder at the trade deadline, had two points in 15 minutes.
Thunder: C Steven Adams missed his 10th straight game with a broken bone in his right hand. He has been practicing with a soft brace. … Westbrook was named Western Conference player of the month earlier Wednesday. … Westbrook had a triple-double against the 76ers exactly one year ago to the day. … Dion Waiters had 20 points and 10 rebounds for his second career double-double.
QUOTE OF THE NIGHT
76ers coach Brett Brown, who sat on the scorer’s table following a steal by Westbrook: “You walk a line of frustration and one of, you become a fan. You just look at that and you scratch your head and are just incredibly impressed with someone who can deliver there, then you blink and he’s up the floor and stealing a kick-ahead pass. I mean, it’s he’s just so, like I say, so physically gifted and so incredibly competitive. It’s a fantastic combination.”
Westbrook is averaging 33.7 points, 10.6 rebounds and 11.2 assists since the All-Star break.
76ers: host Jazz on Friday.
Thunder: at Chicago on Thursday.
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