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Russell Westbrook needed rebounds to reach a
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, so Paul George took care of the points.

George scored 40 points, Westbrook clinched a triple-double average for the
second straight season and the Oklahoma City Thunder defeated the Memphis
Grizzlies 137-123 on Wednesday night.

Westbrook entered the game 16 rebounds shy of becoming the first player to
average a triple-double for a season more than once. He reached that total with
just over nine minutes left in the third quarter and received a standing
ovation. He finished with just six points, but had a career-high 20 rebounds and
19 assists.

”I’m very, very thankful and blessed, man, to go out and compete,” Westbrook
said. ”Like I’ve said many, many times, I don’t take this game for granted. I
don’t take going out on the floor and competing for granted.”

George made 13 of 20 shots, including eight of 14 3-pointers.

”I just caught a rhythm early,” George said. ”It’s just sticking with it,
staying with the process and just putting work in – a lot of work in. It paid
off tonight.”

With a loss, the Thunder would have been a No. 8 seed and forced to play No.
1 seed Houston in the first round. Instead, Oklahoma City will play Utah.

Steven Adams scored 24 points and Corey Brewer added 17 for the
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, who matched a franchise record with 20 made

Dillon Brooks scored a career-high 36 points for Memphis.

Westbrook had one of the most unusual first halves of his career to help the
Thunder take a 20-point lead. He had 12 assists and 11 rebounds, yet only scored
one point and took two shots. George scored 26 points on 9-of-10 shooting,
including 5 of 5 on 3-pointers in the first half to help Oklahoma City score a
season-high 77 points in the first half.

Brooks scored 16 points in the third quarter to help the Grizzlies trim their
deficit to 105-96 at the end of the third quarter. The Grizzlies scored 39
points in the period.

Memphis hung tough in the fourth quarter before back-to-back 3-pointers by
Terrance Ferguson and George pushed Oklahoma City’s lead to 133-116.

”Obviously, I thought we had plays where we could have prevented points, but
for the most part, they (Memphis) just played really well tonight,” George said.
”I thought we did a great job of not falling into just being complacent. I
thought we played phenomenal tonight. It just so happened that they played well
as well. It’s like that sometimes. It’s just great that we played well enough to


Grizzlies: Marc Gasol (rest), Tyreke Evans (personal reasons), JaMychal Green
(knee soreness), Wayne Selden Jr. (right knee soreness), Andrew Harrison (right
wrist/left shoulder) and Jarell Martin (left ankle) all sat out.

Thunder: Westbrook brought F Nick Collison out to midcourt with him before
the game. Westbrook said he wasn’t sure if it would be the 37-year-old
Collison’s last regular-season game, but he wanted the crowd to acknowledge
Collison’s contribution to the franchise. … G Alex Abrines (concussion protocol)
did not play. … Westbrook had seven assists in the first quarter. … Brewer was
fouled on a 3-pointer in the fourth quarter and left the game for good with a
knee sprain.


Westbrook matched a season low with two field goals made and set a season low
with nine field goal attempts.


Westbrook didn’t shoot well, but the other four starters shot a combined 33
for 55 from the field.


Bickerstaff on the team’s 22-60 finish: ”When you go through these types of
times, everybody who is involved’s true character comes out. It’s easy when
things are roses and sunshine to be a good player Youth
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, a good teammate, to be a positive coach,
whatever it may be. But these times, who are you? Hopefully everybody involved
learned from it.”


Grizzlies: Season is over.

Thunder: Will open the playoffs this weekend.


New faces: Coach Jon Gruden, defensive coordinator Paul Guenther, WR Jordy
Nelson, RB Doug Martin, CB Rashaan Melvin, CB Daryl Worley, CB Dominique
Rodgers-Cromartie, LB Derrick Johnson, S Marcus Gilchrist, LB Emmanuel Lamur, LB
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, FB Keith Smith, DL Tank Carradine, QB AJ
McCarron, OL Kolton Miller, DT Maurice Hurst, DE Arden Key, DT P.J. Hall.

Key losses: Coach Jack Del Rio, DE Khalil Mack, WR Michael Crabtree, RT
Marshall Newhouse, LB NaVorro Bowman, CB TJ Carrie, CB Sean Smith, CB David
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, P Marquette King, S Obi Melifonwu, DT Mario
Edwards Jr., QB E.J. Manuel.

Strengths: Few teams invested more in interior of offensive line than Raiders
with center Rodney Hudson, guards Kelechi Osemele and Gabe Jackson. Gruden seeks
power-running offense with Marshawn Lynch behind trio. Successful run game could
open up play-action passing game for QB Derek Carr. Carr seeks bounce back from
down season plagued by back injury, unimaginative offense.

Weaknesses: Secondary full of questions for coordinator Guenther. CB Gareon
Conley struggled to stay healthy since being drafted in first round in 2017.
Melvin had strong season with Indianapolis last year but only got one-year,
prove-it contract. Safeties have mix of unproven young players and aging ones.
2016 first-round pick Karl Joseph yet to develop into playmaker. Reggie Nelson
brought back at age 34 but seemed to be step slow last year. Marcus Gilchrist
provides versatility with ability to cover slot.

Fantasy Players To Watch: WR Amari Cooper. Considered top receiver heading
into last year. Cooper had career lows with 48 catches for 680 yards in 2017.
Raiders believe he can get back to 1,000-yard level from first two seasons.
Red-zone favorite Crabtree let go this offseason, possibly creating more TD
chances for Cooper.

Vegas Says: Super Bowl 35-1. Over/under wins 8.

Expectations: Return of Gruden brings optimism to Raiders fans who have had
just two winning seasons since he left following 2001 and seeking success before
move to Las Vegas in 2020. That changed when team traded best player in Mack
before start of season following contract holdout. Questions remain about how
Gruden will fare after nine seasons away from sideline. He seeks return to power
football and old-school styles successful in first stint. Gruden likely adding
new modern wrinkles to offense as well. Best move might be hiring of Guenther,
which gives Raiders first proven DC in years. Defense needs better schemes with
Mack gone following trade to Chicago. Pressure on rookies Hurst, Hall, Key to
make up for pass rush missing with Mack’s trade.

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