New Grizzly claws Westbrook’s Thunder, Magic Vucevic stuns Sixers
By Agence France-Presse
Brazilian international Bruno Caboclo scored a career-high 24 points as the Memphis Grizzlies dented Oklahoma City Thunder’s likely playoff ranking with a 115-103 upset on Monday.
Caboclo, who only landed a permanent multi-year deal with Memphis last month after a frustrating few years spent trying to break into the NBA, rewarded his new employers’ belief with a game-winning display.
The 6ft 9in 23-year-old small forward from Sao Paulo also pulled down 11 rebounds and provided two assists to give the already-eliminated Grizzlies a deserved win over the higher-ranked Thunder.
The defeat leaves Oklahoma City in eighth place in the Western Conference standings with 43 wins and 31 defeats.
Caboclo’s points haul was the centerpiece of a solid all-round offensive display from Memphis, who saw all five starters finish in double figures.
Tyler Dorsey had 21 points while Delon Wright and Jonas Valanciunas added 18 points apiece.
But it was a rare off night for Thunder star Russell Westbrook, who was restricted to 16 points, five rebounds and seven assists, while converting just six of 20 field goal attempts.
Instead it was left to Paul George to keep the Thunder in touch, with the small forward finishing with 30 points and 12 rebounds.
– Vucevic casts spell –
Elsewhere Monday, there was another upset in Florida as the Orlando Magic sent the Philadelphia 76ers spinning to a second straight defeat in a 119-98.
Nikola Vucevic dominated a Sixers line-up missing Ben Simmons through illness to finish with 11 rebounds and four assists as well as a double-digit points tally.
The 119-98 victory left the Sixers in third place in the Eastern Conference standings with 47 wins against 27 defeats.
The Magic’s fifth consecutive win has kept them firmly in the hunt for a playoff berth with the same number of wins (36) as Miami, who occupy the eighth and final playoff berth.
The two teams meet in Miami on Tuesday in a game that could ultimately decide Magic’s chances of making the playoffs.
Montenegrin Vucevic was backed by a 24-point display from Evan Fournier. Michael Carter-Williams chipped in with 15 from the bench.
Orlando’s defense, which has been the best in the league since the All-Star break, restricted the Sixers to just six three-pointers while forcing 15 turnovers.
“The second half was about as well as we’ve played,” Magic head coach Steve Clifford said.
“I think tonight we were balanced. Our defense was good, we made shots.
“We were good with the starters and then when we broke the line-up we sustained the play well.”
Sixers coach Brett Brown meanwhile saluted the hunger of Orlando’s performance.
“I think that they were desperate,” Brown said. “They played like it.”
The Sixers were forced to readjust after Simmons was ruled out with a stomach bug earlier Monday.
Joel Embiid led the Sixers with 20 points while Tobias Harris added 15 and Jimmy Butler 13.