By BRETT MARTEL, AP Sports Writer
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Russell Westbrook made the right play at the right time again, swinging a pass to Victor Oladipo for an open 3-pointer that slammed the door on New Orleans’ comeback attempt and completed a historically significant triple-double for the Oklahoma City superstar.
Westbrook had 27 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists, passing Larry Bird with his 60th career triple-double, and the Thunder beat the Pelicans 114-105 on Wednesday night.
The accomplishment was not lost on Westbrook, who at 28 is too young to have enjoyed Bird’s best basketball with Boston when it happened, but certainly understands what it means to be in the same conversation.
“Obviously, he’s a legend for a reason,” Westbrook said. “It’s an honor, man. You never take this game for granted. Obviously, to be able to play the game I love every night and to be able to do that is a great accomplishment.”
Pelicans All-Star Anthony Davis left late in the second quarter after re-aggravating a right thigh injury that kept him out of New Orleans’ upset of Cleveland on Monday night. The Pelicans trailed by 12 when Davis left and went down by as many as 22 early in the third before rallying to as close as five points.
Steven Adams had 20 points and 11 rebounds, and Enes Kanter 17 points and 11 boards for the Thunder, who outscored New Orleans 62-54 inside, thanks in no small part to Westbrook’s distribution of the ball.
“I just read the defense,” Westbrook said, noting that he was aware of when New Orleans defense was focused on him and noticed “wide open” teammates. “My job is to try to get us an easy basket.”
After Westbrook’s 3 gave the Thunder their largest lead at 67-45, New Orleans used runs of 10-0 late in the third period and 9-0 in the middle of the fourth to get as close as 105-100 on Solomon Hill’s dunk with 5:34 left.
That’s when Oladipo, who had 15 points, stepped up for the Thunder, starting with a 3 that gave Westbrook his 10th assist.
“He’s going to be one of the best ever to play the game,” Oladipo said. “He’s just playing as hard as he can. He does whatever it takes to win. There’s a relentlessness to him that’s rare, and to be able to witness that and be part of history is a blessing.”
Shortly after his 3, Oladipo disrupted a handoff from Donatas Moteijunas to E’Twaun Moore and broke away for a layup that made it 110-102.
New Orleans never recovered.
Moore scored 18 for the Pelicans, who trailed for all but the first two minutes.
“We have to play the whole game the way we played in the second half,” Moore said. “If we do that, we have a good chance.”
Hill, Jrue Holiday and Tyreke Evans each scored 14 for the Pelicans.
The Thunder raced to a double-digit lead in the first quarter, dunking four times and hitting three 3-pointers en route to a 33-20 advantage. The early highlights included Kanter’s dunk over both the 6-foot-11 Davis and 7-footer Omer Asik while being fouled by Asik.
“You can’t dig yourself a hole against that team like that and expect for you to be able to win,” Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said. “It has to be the perfect storm and you know, we did a good job of fighting our way back in it, but one missed shot, one bad turnover, one something and then all of a sudden they go down and score and you’re right back in the hole again.”
Westbrook scored 17 points in the first half, hitting a pair of 3s and scoring seven points on free throws.
Oklahoma City finished the half with a four-point play when Oladipo hit a 3 while Adams was fouled in the paint by Moteijunas. Adams hit the free throw to make it 64-45 at halftime.
Each team had a rookie selected to the Rising Stars game during All-Star weekend — Oklahoma City’s Domantas Sabonis and New Orleans’ Buddy Hield. Both will be playing for the World team. Thunder coach Billy Donavan said the selection of Sabonis — a Lithuanian who played for Gonzaga — is a tribute to Thunder scouts, and coaches who’ve worked to develop his game, and Sabonis himself for having the ability to “affect our team in a positive way.” Hield is from the Bahamas and played for Oklahoma in college. “It’s well deserved,” Gentry said. “I don’t think anyone works any harder.”
Thunder: Oklahoma City wrapped up its road trip at 3-3. … The Thunder improved to 3-0 against New Orleans this season. … Westbrook is alone in fifth for career triple-doubles. Wilt Chamberlain is fourth with 78.
Pelicans: They are 2-2 on a six-game homestand that ends Sunday, and 12-13 at home this season.
Thunder: Host the Dallas Mavericks on Thursday night.
Pelicans: Host the San Antonio Spurs on Friday night.
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