OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma City Thunder spoiled Russell Westbrook’s return.
Westbrook scored 34 points, but the Thunder beat the Houston Rockets 113-92 on Thursday night.
Westbrook was a league MVP and two-time scoring champ for the Thunder before being traded to the Rockets last summer for Chris Paul and draft picks. Westbrook was the last remaining player from the team that began playing in Oklahoma City in 2008 after leaving Seattle.
The fans remember Westbrook as the star who stayed after Kevin Durant left for then-rival Golden State in 2016, and they showered him with appreciation before the game. There was a tribute video, then loud cheers as he was introduced with enthusiasm, in the same manner as a home Thunder player. The crowd stood, cheered loudly and even chanted M-V-P as the announcer moved on to other players. Westbrook even ran over to a corner of the court and exhorted the crowd before the tip, just like he did when he played for the Thunder.
Danilo Gallinari led the Thunder with 23 points and 11 rebounds and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander added 20 points.
Houston’s James Harden was held to 17 on 5-for-17 shooting.
76ers 109, Celtics 98
PHILADELPHIA – Josh Richardson scored 29 points, Ben Simmons had 19 and Philadelphia won without injured center Joel Embiid, beating Boston.
Embiid will have surgery Friday for a torn ligament in a finger in his left hand and will be evaluated in one to two weeks. Embiid, averaging 23.4 points and 12.3 rebounds in 31 games this season, tore the radial collateral ligament in the ring finger Monday night in a victory over Oklahoma City.
Mike Scott slid into the starting rotation, along with Al Horford, Tobias Harris, Richardson and Simmons. Simmons played center at times and drew a charge on Enes Kanter with 1:45 left in the first quarter.
The Celtics had their own injury scare when Kemba Walker, ejected for the first time in his nine-year NBA career a night earlier, sprained his left thumb. Walker ran into Mike Scott and instantly clutched his hand late in the second quarter. Walker, who scored 26 points on 10-for-20 shooting, tried to shake it off but left for the locker room shortly before the Celtics took a 55-48 lead into halftime.
Cavaliers 115, Pistons 112, OT
DETROIT – Kevin Love made a tiebreaking 3-pointer with 37.9 seconds left in overtime and Cleveland snapped a five-game losing streak.
On a tumultuous day for the Cleveland organization, the Cavaliers rallied from a 13-point third-quarter deficit and outlasted Detroit at the end. Tristan Thompson had 35 points and 14 rebounds for the Cavaliers.
Cleveland coach John Beilein said earlier Thursday that he’d apologized for his comments during a film session the previous day. ESPN.com, citing unidentified sources, reported that Beilein suggested during a Wednesday film session his players were no longer playing “like a bunch of thugs.” Beilein said he meant to say “slugs” in reference to the team’s effort level.
Andre Drummond had 28 points and 23 rebounds for Detroit. The Pistons are without star forward Blake Griffin, who had surgery on his left knee.
Timberwolves 116, Trail Blazers 102
MINNEAPOLIS – Andrew Wiggins scored 23 points, Gorgui Dieng had 12 points and 10 rebounds and Minnesota beat Portland,
The Timberwolves held Portland to 13 points on 6-of-22 shooting in the second quarter, the fewest points the Blazers have scored in a quarter this year.
Damian Lillard led Portland with 20 points and eight of the team’s 13 assists. CJ McCollum and Hassan Whiteside each added 15 points.
Minnesota was without star big man Karl-Anthony Towns for the 12th straight game with a left knee sprain.
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