Nuggets clinch division title, Westbrook averages season triple double
By Agence France-Presse
Nikola Jokic tallied 22 points, 13 rebounds and nine assists as the Denver Nuggets clinched the Northwest Division title with a 119-110 win over the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday.
Paul Millsap scored 25 points and Jamal Murray had 23 as Denver locked up at least the number three seed in the NBA’s Western Conference.
Denver have a slim chance at gaining the top seed but the first place Golden State Warriors also won on Friday, 120-114 over the Cleveland Cavaliers. Denver lead the Houston Rockets by 1 1/2 games for the second seed in the West.
“That’s big,” said Murray of the division title. “Everybody knows how well we play at home.”
Enes Kanter had 24 points, Rodney Hood had 17 and Al-Farouq Aminu had 12 points and 14 rebounds for Portland who dropped to 50-29 on the season.
Damian Lillard scored 14 points and missed all six of his three-point attempts.
The same teams meet again on Sunday night with the Nuggets having won the last six in a row.
“This was our night and it is going to carry over when we go to their place,” said Murray. “We have to bring the same energy, same pace and try to get it done.”
– Curry bounces back –
In Oakland, Stephen Curry bounced back from his lowest scoring game of the season to deliver 40 points as the Warriors moved to within one win of clinching the top seed by beating the struggling Cavaliers.
Golden State just need a win Sunday over the Los Angeles Clippers to seal the top seed in the West playoffs which begin next weekend.
The Warriors swept LeBron James’ Cavaliers in last season’s NBA finals.
Golden State led wire-to-wire Friday and at one stage had a whopping 21 point lead.
In Oklahoma City, Russell Westbrook secured his third straight season averaging a triple double as the Thunder beat the Detroit Pistons 123-110 in a NBA contest crucial to both teams’ playoff hopes.
Westbrook finished with 19 points, eight rebounds and 15 assists and has now averaged 10 or more points, rebounds, assists over the course of the season. He also averaged 10 or more figures in 2017-18 and 2016-17.
Paul George scored 30 points and Jerami Grant had 19 for Oklahoma City who won for the second straight game and fourth time in the past seven.
Westbrook came into the game needing three assists to secure his triple double season average and did it on just the fourth possession by Oklahoma City.
He is the only player to achieve the feat in consecutive seasons and he also leads the league in assists.
The Thunder improved to 46-33 on the season and remain in seventh place in the Western Conference, a half-game ahead of the San Antonio Spurs, who also won Friday.
The Pistons lost for the third consecutive game and for the sixth time in their past eight.
Detroit dropped into a tie for seventh in the Eastern Conference with the Brooklyn Nets, just a game ahead of the ninth-place Miami Heat.
Pistons’ Blake Griffin tallied 45 points, but when the game got close he scored just one point in the fourth quarter. Griffin had 31 points in the first half and made six of nine three pointers before going cold.
– Celtics alone in 4th –
Also, Jayson Tatum and Gordon Hayward combined for 43 points as the Boston Celtics seized sole possession of fourth place in the Eastern Conference standings with a 117-97 win over the Indiana Pacers.
Tatum had 22 points and Hayward 21 for the visiting Celtics who are battling for home court advantage in the postseason. Boston are also trying to catch third place Philadelphia in the standings.
The Celtics improved to 48-32 on the season to break a fourth place tie with the Pacers.