AP NEWS

Westbrook scores 42, Thunder beat Pelicans 121-110

December 22, 2016
Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook, top, makes a layup against New Orleans Pelicans guard Tim Frazier, bottom, during the first half of an NBA basketball game in New Orleans, Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2016. (AP Photo/Max Becherer)

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Russell Westbrook’s left-handed, inside-out dribble wrong-footed Pelicans guard Jrue Holiday, creating an open lane for a driving layup. That was one of many scoring highlights for the Oklahoma City star, who sometimes looked like he could have outscored New Orleans by himself.

He didn’t have to, though, thanks to a reserve unit led by rookie Alex Abrines that extended leads while Westbrook was resting on the bench.

Westbrook had 42 points and 10 rebounds, Abrines hit five 3s and finished with a career-best 18 points, and the Thunder beat the Pelicans 121-110 on Wednesday night.

“We did a great job of just playing together,” Westbrook said. “It was great, man, to come in (during the fourth quarter) with everything under control. (We) did a great job of managing the game.”

Abrines scored nine points during a pivotal 11-0 run early in the fourth quarter. The surge gave the Thunder a 100-87 lead with 9:18 left, and New Orleans never got within eight points after that.

The 23-year-old shooting guard from Spain, who’d previously reached 10 points only once this season, said he could tell he was shooting well and gaining confidence.

“You get those feelings when you knock down a couple 3s and you’re hot,” Abrines said. “You just receive the ball and you let it fly. You know it’s going in.”

Enes Kanter, who hit a hook shot during that spurt, finished with 14 points and 14 rebounds.

“We just couldn’t get them stopped at all,” Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said of the Thunder, who scored 56 points inside and outrebounded New Orleans 49-34. “Their inside play I thought hurt us.”

Anthony Davis had 34 points and 15 rebounds for New Orleans. Holiday added 23 points and 10 assists, and Terrence Jones scored 21 points for the Pelicans, who’ve lost nine of 12.

CRITICAL STRETCH

Coming off a lopsided victory in Philadelphia a night earlier, New Orleans kept the game competitive through three quarters and trailed 89-87 after Tyreke Evans’ 3-pointer with 11:10 left.

That’s when the Thunder suddenly pulled away by scoring 11 straight points over the span of just four possessions. Abrines hit a 3 and soon after converted a three-point play on a driving layup as he was fouled by Langston Galloway. After New Orleans missed its third straight shot, Abrines added another 3.

“The one kid came in and really changed the game,” Gentry said of Abrines. “That’s kind of what got them separation.”

Abrines finished 5 of 11 from 3-point range and was the leading scorer among Thunder reserves, who combined for 52 points.

Westbrook sounded impressed by the shooting he’s seen from Abrines in practice and was pleased to see it finally translate in a game.

“He works hard every day, works on his game and that’s the best part about him,” Westbrook said. “There’s going to be ups and downs the whole season, but tonight he did a great job of making shots.”

SHOWMANSHIP

One of the better crowds of the season, announced as 16,375, showed up for Westbrook’s first visit this season, and he put on the type of scoring display NBA fans expect. There were end-to-end layups with strong finishes in traffic, pull-up jumpers, spot-up jumpers, step-back jumpers, gritty put-backs of his own misses and a couple 3s.

He scored 16 of his points on 18 free-throw attempts.

He capped his scoring with a 27-foot, straight-on 3, after which he did a little shoulder-shaking dance on his way back toward the Thunder defensive end.

TIP-INS

Thunder: The Thunder improved to 7-0 when outrebounding an opponent by 10 or more. ... Westbrook has scored at least 20 in 11 straight. ... The Thunder evened its road record at 6-6. ... Westbrook was three assists short of posting his 14th triple-double this season. ... Steven Adams scored 12 points and Joffrey Lauvergne added 10 points.

Pelicans: New Orleans plays its next four games at home, where the Pelicans are 6-10. ... Davis had at least 10 points and 10 rebounds in a game for the 18th time this season. ... Guard Tim Frazier scored 10 points. ... First-round draft choice Buddy Hield started and played nearly 20 minutes but was 0-of-3 shooting and finished with just two points on free throws.

UP NEXT

Thunder: Visit Boston on Friday night.

Pelicans: Host Miami on Friday night.