Westbrook, Thunder top Spurs’ B team
OKLAHOMA CITY -- Gregg Popovich threw out a virtual B-team on Sunday night against the Oklahoma City Thunder, yet the San Antonio Spurs were in the game until the final buzzer.
Oklahoma City needed a pair of missed 3-pointers by San Antonio in the final 15 seconds to hold on for a 90-87 win at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
A turnover in the final seconds gave the Spurs one last chance to tie it, but Brandon Paul’s 3-point attempt just before the buzzer missed the mark and Raymond Felton wrangled the rebound to seal the win.
Russell Westbrook had his seventh triple-double of the season, finishing with 22 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists. He committed seven turnovers.
Steven Adams added 19 points and 10 boards for the Thunder (10-12).
The Thunder went scoreless for the final 3:34 after Westbrook’s 3-pointer put them up 90-82.
Dejounte Murray led the Spurs (15-8) with 17 points and 11 rebounds. Davis Bertans added 16 points and five blocks.
Even with the league’s new rest rules, Popovich used a skeleton lineup against the Thunder as his team began a stretch of five games in seven nights.
Already without All-Star forward Kawhi Leonard, the Spurs sat forwards LaMarcus Aldridge and Rudy Gay, and guards Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili.
Aldridge was listed as missing due to rest while Gay had a sore right heel. Parker’s absence was chalked up to management as he returns from injury. Parker (quadriceps) missed the season’s first 19 games before playing in the last three prior to the meeting with the Thunder.
Then after playing 16 first-half minutes and scoring five points, San Antonio center Pau Gasol sat out the entire second half.
Ginobili’s night off was listed as a “coach’s decision.”
Oklahoma City got a scare early in the fourth quarter when Westbrook stayed on the floor grabbing his thigh after losing the ball in the lane.
Westbrook drove into the lane on Murray, stopping suddenly and pivoting twice before losing the ball and falling to the ground, where he remained as the action went the other way.
However, after the Thunder got the ball back and called a timeout to attend to Westbrook, he remained in the game.
Oklahoma City shot just 6 of 23 from the floor in the fourth quarter.
”I thought we generated a lot of good looks tonight,“ Thunder coach Billy Donovan said. ”It wasn’t one of our better shooting nights ... but it wasn’t because the guys got stuck.
“From start to finish, our guys made a commitment to move the ball.”
Without Parker, Popovich decided to lean heavily on Murray at point guard.
Murray had 12 points on 5-of-9 shooting with four assists and a pair of steals after halftime as the Spurs cut into the Thunder lead.
The second-year Murray played a career-high 39 minutes.
“I learned a lot, being out there on the floor at the same time as three all-stars,” Murray said. “Just trying to lead and show the coaches that I‘m a point guard. I can lead, I‘m learning, I‘m getting better, and that’s what it’s all about -- just getting better every day.”
With Murray matched up with Westbrook, the Spurs rallied from being down as many as 14 points, taking the lead for the first time in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter.
It was Murray’s driving layup with 8:44 left that put the Spurs ahead for the final time, 79-78.
“That’s quite an education for a young man to be out there with him so that was good for him,” Popovich said.
The Thunder scored the next eight points to regain control.
NOTES: San Antonio F Kyle Anderson sustained a left medial knee sprain with one minute to go in the third quarter. Anderson was carried off the floor by teammates and did not return. He’s expected to undergo an MRI exam on Monday. ... With San Antonio using a depleted lineup, PG Derrick White played for the first time since Nov. 2. White, returning from a right wrist fracture that kept him out for 12 games, scored four points. ... Thunder F Paul George struggled with foul trouble early and didn’t score until early in the third quarter. He wound up with eight points and eight rebounds. ... Spurs F/C Joffrey Lauvergne dislocated a finger on his right hand early in the fourth quarter. He had the bone reset during a timeout and stayed in the game.