Suns look to keep Westbrook, Thunder in check (Jan 07, 2018)

BY AP • January 6, 2018

PHOENIX -- The last time Oklahoma City guard Russell Westbrook came to Phoenix, Suns guard Devin Booker delivered a message.

"This is my house," Booker screamed to the crowd late in the Suns' 120-99 victory on April 8, 2017, a game in which the Suns temporarily denied Westbrook his NBA season record-setting 42nd triple-double.

Westbrook broke Oscar Robertson's 55-year-old record in his next game, but Booker's vocal resonated in town, so much so that Arizona Diamondbacks right-hander Archie Bradley voiced a similar sentiment during the D-backs' victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers in August.

Oklahoma City (22-17) and the Suns (15-26) will meet again in the first of their three games this season at Talking Stick Resort Arena on Saturday.

Westbrook had 23 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists last April 7 game, and he had the support of more than a few fans down the stretch as he looked for two more assists before being removed with 2:34 remaining. Fans booed when Thunder center Steven Adams passed off instead shooting after receiving a feed from Westbrook.

"I'm at my home arena and you hear chants to another guy," Booker told reporters that night after scoring 37 points.

"I totally respect Russell. He brings it each and every night. You can't discredit what he's been doing. I'm sure he's going to pass Oscar for the most triple-doubles, but I just didn't want that to be here. I took that personal. I'm sure if someone's chasing a record in OKC, he'd feel the same way."

Westbrook enters Saturday's game with a league-high 13 triple-doubles this season, two in the last three games. He has almost twice as many as LeBron James, second with seven.

Booker is on a roll, too, with three 30-point games in the last six since returning from a strained left adductor muscle that kept him out for nine games. Booker had 21 in a 103-89 loss at San Antonio on Friday and is averaging 24.8 points a game.

The Thunder has won two in a row and eight of 10, and finally seems to be meshing after the offseason additions of Paul George and Carmelo Anthony. After starting 8-12, they are on a roll.

"We found our rhythm," Anthony told reporters after a 127-117 victory at the Los Angeles Clippers on Thursday, completing a two-game L.A sweep following a 133-96 blowout of the Lakers on Wednesday.

"We still have some ways to go as a team, but we've figured out how we want to play and who we are."

Westbrook had 29 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists against the Clippers. George had 31 points and Anthony had 22.

"When we're on, all three of us hot like that, it's going to result in a lot of wins," George told reporters.

Westbrook is averaging 24.8 points (the same as Booker while playing eight more games), 10.1 assists and 9.6 rebounds. George is averaging 21.0 points a game and Anthony is at 17.7.

Each of those three scored at least 20 against the Lakers, as did rookie guard Terrance Ferguson, who had a career-high 24 points while filling in for Andre Roberson, who also is expected to miss the Phoenix game with a knee injury.

"When we're on, all three of us hot like that, it's going to result in a lot of wins," George told reporters.

The Suns have won six of their last 11 but have lost their last two on the road in Denver and San Antonio. They are 7-14 at home.

Without forward TJ Warren, their second-leading scorer at 19.6 points a game, the Suns shot only 42.2 percent from the field and committed 23 turnovers against the Spurs. Josh Jackson had 11 points and five rebounds in 22 minutes while playing for Warren, who was out with an illness. He remains day-to-day.

Booker, the focus of the Spurs' defense, was 5-for-7 from the field in the first quarter and 3-of-10 the rest of the way.

"They put a bunch of different bodies on me," Booker told reporters. "Throwing different looks. First half, I got open a few times. Second half, it was all double teams."

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