OKC leapfrog Spurs in West, Kawhi return date set
THE Oklahoma City Thunder downed the San Antonio Spurs 104-94 in a battle of two struggling Western Conference giants.
Russell Westbrook recorded a triple-double, with his 21 points a game-high, as the Spurs dropped to a fourth loss in their last five.
The Thunder improve to 39-29 on the season and skip ahead to the fifth seed, while San Antonio's steady decline has them sitting seventh in the West on a 37-29 record.
Arguably the biggest story of the day came before the game, with reports that Kawhi Leonard is in line for a return to action as soon as Friday against the New Orleans Pelicans.
Australian Patty Mills had a disappointing outing for the Spurs, putting up just six points, four assists and two rebounds in 24 minutes as a starter.
AROUND THE LEAGUE
SAN ANTONIO SPURS 94 - 104 OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER
Russell Westbrook scored 21 points and posted his 19th triple-double of the season to help the Oklahoma City Thunder defeat the San Antonio Spurs 104-94 on Sunday.
Westbrook had 12 rebounds and 10 assists in the 98th triple-double of his career.
Jerami Grant scored 15 points, Corey Brewer added 12, Paul George and Alex Abrines each scored 11 and Patrick Patterson had 10 for the Thunder.
PHOENIX SUNS 115 - 122 CHARLOTTE HORNETS
Dwight Howard had 30 points and 12 rebounds, Nic Batum flirted with a triple-double and the Charlotte Hornets held on to beat the Phoenix Suns 122-115 on Sunday to snap a five-game losing streak.
Batum added 29 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists and Marvin Williams chipped in with 16 points as the Hornets won despite nearly squandering a 22-point fourth quarter lead to a Suns team playing without star Devin Booker.
WASHINGTON WIZARDS 102 - 129 MIAMI HEAT
James Johnson scored 20 points and Wayne Ellington added 17 as the Miami Heat used a third-quarter charge to beat the Washington Wizards 129-102 in the NBA.
Tyler Johnson, Josh Richardson, Rodney McGruder and Kelly Olynyk all scored 13 for the Heat, who never trailed and outscored Washington 43-28 in a dominant third period to increase their lead to 27 points.
That was Miami's highest-scoring quarter in a regular-season contest since October 30, 2013 - 394 games ago.
Dwyane Wade got the 8,000th field goal of his career in the first half but left the game less than a minute into the fourth quarter with what was diagnosed as a mild left hamstring strain.
Jodie Meeks scored 23 for the Wizards, whose five-game winning streak was snapped.
MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES 80 - 114 DALLAS MAVERICKS
Harrison Barnes scored 25 points and the Dallas Mavericks beat Memphis 114-80 on Sunday (AEDT), extending the Grizzlies' losing streak to 17 games.
The Grizzlies (18-48), who have the longest losing streak in the NBA this season and the league's worst record, trailed by 26 points after shooting 26 percent in the first half and didn't lead after the 9:20 mark of the first quarter.
The only longer losing streaks in franchise history were skids of 23 and 19 games in the expansion season of 1995-96 in Vancouver. It's the longest losing streak in Memphis pro basketball history.
ORLANDO MAGIC 105 - 113 LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS
The Los Angeles Clippers moved to within one game of the San Antonio Spurs with a 113-105 win over the Orlando Magic.
Trailing to start the fourth quarter, Doc Rivers' men simply had too much quality in the end; Lou Williams leading the way with 25 points on the night.
The Magic were again without Aaron Gordon and Evan Fournier, with Jonathan Simmons topscoring for Orlando with 24 points.