Clippers host Thunder, sizzling Westbrook
LOS ANGELES — Before a high-profile reunion with old running mate Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder face the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday night.
Westbrook is off to an incredible start for Thunder (3-0), who play the first of back-to-back contests at Staples Center before heading to Oakland, Calif., to clash with the Golden State Warriors and Durant for the first time Thursday. Westbrook is averaging an NBA-high 38.7 points along with 11.7 assists (second in the league) and 12.3 rebounds (tied for sixth).
He is shooting 45.3 percent from the floor and 44.3 percent from 3-point range for Oklahoma City, which beat the Clippers in two of three meetings last season. In his last outing Sunday, Westbrook earned his second straight triple-double in a 113-96 win over the Los Angeles Lakers, finishing with 33 points, 16 assists and 12 rebounds.
Westbrook is the first player in NBA history to record 100 points, 30 rebounds and 30 assists in a club’s first three games.
"They’re a great team, so it’s always a fun matchup even though they look different this year," said Clippers forward Blake Griffin, who collected 21 points, 11 rebounds and five assists in a 116-98 victory over the Phoenix Suns on Monday as Los Angeles improved to 3-0. "But still, you see what Russ is doing and you see they have guys who are very capable, so I think for that part you look forward to a game like that.
"(Westbrook is) an unbelievable player. Just the impact he has on the game in so many different areas and just the pressure he puts on defenses just alone is crazy. But you kind of know that’s his personality, to just go and destroy and take over. But it will be a fun challenge."
Thunder coach Billy Donovan is anticipating the two-game road trip providing a compass on his team.
"This gives us an opportunity really early in the season — in the fourth game and the fifth game — to find out really more about ourselves against two outstanding teams," Donovan said, according to NewsOK.com.
The Clippers relied on defense to roll past the Utah Jazz 88-75 in their home opener Sunday. That followed a 114-106 road triumph over the Portland Trail Blazers last Thursday.
"Trust has been a big point for us, and talking," said Griffin, who is putting up 22 points and 11.3 rebounds per game. "We have been eliminating small mistakes by communicating more. (Defense) has been our main focus in practice. We have been communicating and calling for each other, and everybody has a pretty good trust. We have to make some adjustments, but it has been a good start."
On Tuesday, the Thunder acquired forward Jerami Grant and a trade exception from the Philadelphia 76ers in exchange for forward Ersan Ilyasova and a protected draft pick. Ilyasova was traded to Oklahoma City with guard Victor Oladipo in an offseason deal with the Orlando Magic for forward Serge Ibaka.
The 6-foot-8, 210-pound Grant averages eight points, 3.5 rebounds and two blocks per game. For his career, Grant has posted averages of 8.2 points, 3.9 rebounds and 1.38 blocks in 144 games (63 starts).
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