Two nights after Houston star James Harden brought his 11 triple-doubles to Target Center, Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook earned his 19th of the season Friday night during the Timberwolves’ 96-86 victory over the Thunder.
Westbrook had 21 points, 12 assists and 11 rebounds but also had 10 turnovers.
On Dec. 31, Harden delivered 53 points, 17 assists and 16 rebounds in a victory over New York. Westbrook has had streaks of seven games with a triple-double and three consecutive 40-point games this season.
Both are rare triple-double machines, but they are not alone in delivering what Wolves guard Ricky Rubio and others call video-game numbers.
On any given night, Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Wolves’ Karl-Anthony Towns are putting up gaudy stats across the board.
Thunder coach Billy Donovan attributes such unique performances to unique players.
Towns is a 7-footer who sometimes plays like a guard. Antetokounmpo is 6-11 and often plays point guard for Bucks coach Jason Kidd.
“You’re seeing players who are extremely versatile and can impact the game in a lot of different ways,” Donovan said. “What Russell has done has been incredibly remarkable, but take a guy like Towns: 6-11, 7 feet, shoots threes, puts it on the floor, can play with his back to the basket. He gets fouls and rebounds. His skill set puts him in position to put up huge numbers.
“Same thing with Giannis at Milwaukee: He’s not the three-point shooter James Harden is, but he gets to the free-throw line. He puts the ball on the floor. He can create for himself and play with his back to the basket.
“You can’t take it all away from guys who are gifted. That’s why they can put up the numbers they do, because they’re not one-dimensional. There are a lot of things they can do.”
LaVine sits out again
Wolves shooting guard Zach LaVine missed his second consecutive game because of a hip contusion he suffered in Monday’s victory over Dallas. Veteran Brandon Rush started in his place again.
LaVine tried some shooting and stretching both in the morning shootaround and pregame warmups before deciding he needs to heal at least until Sunday afternoon’s game at Dallas.
“It’s in my abdomen almost, a little bruise there,” LaVine said. “You use your abdomen for everything. It’s a little painful. I’m fighting through it when I shoot.”
An eye on the U
Gophers men’s basketball coach Richard Pitino was Donovan’s assistant at Florida for two years ending in 2011.
“I’m happy that he’s doing well,” said Donovan, who played and coached for Pitino’s dad, Rick. “I’ve had a chance to talk to him quite a bit, and he seems really excited about his team. He’s excited about where they can end up by the end of the year.”
Impressing even Thibs
Wolves coach Tom Thibodeau insists he is all about winning and cares not a bit about showmanship, but even he might have rewound Wednesday’s game footage just to see the bounce pass Rubio threaded behind Harden to hit Shabazz Muhammad on the full run for a layup.
“Ricky’s got great vision,” Thibodeau said. “That’s part of what makes guys run the floor hard: They know if they get ahead and they’re open, he’s going to throw it. The more we run, the better it is. He doesn’t need much room.”
• Thibodeau said he used to watch Providence practices when he was a Harvard assistant and Donovan was the Friars’ star shooter. “Billy was a lot faster back then,” Thibodeau said. Said Donovan, “I probably have lost more than a step.”
• After review, the NBA changed Wednesday’s boxscore to give Rush a third blocked shot against the Rockets.