By Fred Katz
The Norman Transcript
OKLAHOMA CITY (TNS) — Russell Westbrook was about to shoot his first of two fourth-quarter free throws. But Portland coach Terry Stotts’ attention wasn’t on the Oklahoma City star. Instead, he was calling over his own super-scoring point guard, Damian Lillard, to have a quick word.
The problem was, he couldn’t quite say what he wanted.
Instead of waiting in his usual free-throw spot, Thunder wing Andre Roberson meandered over to Lillard and stood between him and Stotts, just listening in on the convo between coach and player.
Even when the ball was dead, Roberson wouldn’t leave Lillard alone, helping the Thunder to a 105-99 Sunday afternoon victory over the Trail Blazers.
“I just like taking the ball out of guys’ hands as much as I can or just trying to keep them from getting it back,” Roberson said. “Most of the time, offense is for them, but when you deny that pass or mess up the timing of the play, it disrupts everything else.”
Roberson bounced around defensive assignments, gluing himself to Lillard on some plays and shooting guards Allen Crabbe or C.J. McCollum on others. Rare contributions — 14 points and 11 rebounds, the second double-double of his career — on the other end finished off one of his season’s most complete performances.
“Just trying to be more involved in the offense, trying to get my rhythm back,” Roberson said. “Cutting right now seems to be working.”
The baseline, basket cuts yielded a couple of finishes Sunday. He moved without the ball, played small-ball 4 for parts of yet another game with center Enes Kanter injured, and even squared up a defender for a drive-by, righty slam which was his best dunk since…Well, he probably has a more informed opinion than anyone else.
“Since college, for sure,” he said.
He wasn’t the only one who defended, either. Center Steven Adams deterred pick-and-rolls and defended the rim. Shooting guard Victor Oladipo shaded McCollum off the ball. And the Thunder needed that kind of effort to stay in the game.
They had made just 31 percent of their field goals and were a mere 1 of 11 from 3 at halftime, when they trailed by six. They ended up shooting 54 percent in the second half.
“We really defended the entire game,” coach Billy Donovan said. “I thought our focus and our intensity to start the game was really good and I thought we really tried to guard at a high level for the full 48.”
The defense early allowed for the offense late.
It was the second straight game Russell Westbrook would go for exactly 19 in the fourth quarter.
Boston clocks Clippers
BOSTON (TNS) — The Los Angeles Clippers would fall into a hole and climb out. They’d fall back into the very same hole and climb right back out.
But at no time did the Clippers ever dig all the way out of the hole they were put in by Boston, and that eventually led to a 107-102 loss to the Celtics on Sunday afternoon at TD Garden.
The Clippers have now lost six of their last eight games.
Blake Griffin (23 points, eight rebounds), Jamal Crawford (23 points) and Raymond Felton (16 points) did all they could to help the Clippers in their time of need.
But with seven Celtics scoring in double figures and Boston tossing up an NBA high for this season of 52 three-pointers, the Clippers couldn’t catch up whenever they mounted a charge.
By Broderick Turner, Los Angeles Times
NEW YORK — The best thing the Nets had going for them on Sunday afternoon was that the Raptors were without two starters, without their usual first-place swagger and without much mojo after a 2-8 stumble in their previous 10 games. Despite all of that, Toronto still had more than enough.
Taking advantage of Nets turnovers and the home side’s chronic shortage of top-flight manpower, the Raptors rode a 17-2 run at the end of the first half to a 103-95 victory at Barclays Center.
It was the ninth loss in a row for the Nets and left no suggestion about when the streak might end.
The Nets had a pivotal void: They went 4:43 before halftime without a field goal.
Kyle Lowry, doing his best to shake off an illness, had enough in the tank to lead Toronto with a triple-double: 15 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists.
By Mark Herrmann, Newsday
Seven-foot center Jonas Valanciunas was healthy and kept making slam dunks, especially after Brook Lopez was assessed his third foul late in the second quarter. Valanciunas finished with 22 points, giving the Raptors a needed shot in the arm after having ceded first place in the Atlantic Division to the Celtics.
Trevor Booker, now coming off the Nets bench rather than starting, had a solid and spirited effort worth 15 points and 10 rebounds. He led a surge in the fourth quarter that drew the Nets within four points but the run fell short. Lopez finished with a team-high 20 points.