By TERRANCE HARRIS, Associated Press
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — With as prolific a scorer as Russell Westbrook is, the Oklahoma City Thunder never feel as though any deficit is too much to overcome.
Oklahoma City stormed back from a double-digit deficit behind another eye-popping performance by Westbrook to upend Orlando 114-106 in overtime Wednesday night. Westbrook scored 36 of his 57 points — the most in a triple-double in NBA history — after halftime and had 13 rebounds and 11 assists to help the Thunder clinch a playoff spot in the Western Conference.
It was the largest comeback win in Oklahoma City history.
On Monday night, Westbrook had a 13-point outburst in the final three minutes to rally the Thunder past Dallas.
“I always say this about him, he never believes he is out of it or we’re out of it,” said Thunder coach Billy Donovan, whose team improved to 43-31. “And he plays with an incredible competitive spirit. He plays with an unbelievable spirt. He always has a huge heart, he’s always a huge competitor and he finds ways to make things happen.
“Overall, it’s incredible what he is doing.”
Westbrook, just as he was two nights earlier, was the catalyst late in the fourth quarter and into the overtime period as he took every big shot and Orlando had no defensive answer. He scored 19 points in the fourth quarter, which included the 3-pointer with 7.1 seconds remaining in regulation that sent the game into overtime with his 50th point of the night.
He scored seven of his team’s 12 points in overtime as OKC pulled away from the Magic. He has 38 triple-doubles this season.
“I’m very thankful to the man above for allowing me to play the game I love,” Westbrook, who finished one point shy of tying his career high. “And my teammates make it easy for me and give me a lot of opportunities to make plays like this.”
Westbrook’s performance was so impressive and dominating that chants of “MVP! MVP! MVP!” began to dominate Amway Center by late in the fourth quarter.
“Words really can’t describe it,” OKC guard Victor Oladipo said of Westbrook’s performance this season. “It’s just an honor to be able to play alongside him. It’s amazing to watch him and it’s good for me to watch, too.”
Enes Kanter added 17 points and 10 rebounds off the bench for the Thunder, and Oladipo had 13 points while returning to Orlando for the first time since being traded by the Magic last June.
Evan Fournier finished with 24 points and Terrence Ross added 23 for the Magic, who were eliminated from the playoffs before tipoff.
“This is really a tough one,” said Magic center Nikola Vucevic, who missed some clutch free throws at the end of regulation and the start of overtime. “We had so many opportunities to close out the game and didn’t. We went to me a lot and I didn’t deliver. I missed a couple of go-to shots in the fourth and some free throws.”
Thunder: Entered Wednesday night in sixth place in the Western Conference standings, but just 2 1/2 games out of the coveted fourth-place spot. The top four teams are guaranteed home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. … Through the first 73 games of the season, Westbrook averaged 31.4 points, 10.5 rebounds and 10.4 assists, which is second in NBA history to Oscar Robertson through the first 70 games of a season. … Westbrook had nine points, four rebounds and two assists in the first quarter, but he also had five turnovers.
Magic: Orlando was eliminated from the Eastern Conference playoffs after Detroit lost to Miami on Tuesday night. The Magic have now missed the postseason five straight seasons. … Team founder Jimmy Hewitt was inducted into Orlando Magic Hall of Fame before Wednesday night’s game. … Forward Jeff Green missed his fourth straight game due to back spasms. He is listed as day-to-day.
Thunder: Begin a three-game homestand on Friday against San Antonio. The Spurs and Thunder have split in their two previous games this season.
Magic: Start a three-game road trip at Boston on Friday. The Celtics have defeated Orlando by 30 points in each of the first two meetings this season.
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