SAN ANTONIO (AP) – The San Antonio Spurs have admired the outstanding season Russell Westbrook is having and the Oklahoma City Thunder point guard didn’t disappoint in person.
Neither did the Spurs, who took playing Westbrook as a great challenge.
Kawhi Leonard scored 36 points as San Antonio held Westbrook scoreless in the fourth quarter for a 108-94 victory on Tuesday night.
“You’re just fired up just playing against Russ out there,’’ Leonard said. “(Westbrook is) out there competing on every possession. The way he’s been playing, he has been ridiculous. So, you definitely want to rise up to the challenge.’’
It was the Spurs’ first game against the Thunder since Oklahoma City bounced them out of the Western Conference playoffs last season following a franchise-record 67 wins in the regular season.
The Thunder look vastly different after losing Kevin Durant to free agency and trading Serge Ibaka, but Westbrook continued to terrorize San Antonio.
Westbrook had 27 points, 14 assists and six rebounds, but was shut out after scoring 14 points in the third. He shot 0 for 4 in the fourth and finished 7 for 17 from the field.
“I think everybody in this locker room loves those challenges,’’ said Spurs guard Danny Green, who was Westbrook’s primary defender.
“Top teams, the best players, that’s what we’re here for. We grew up watching this game and want to play in these games. To play against the best, beat the best and compete against the best and see where we stand individually and as a group.’’
LaMarcus Aldridge added 25 points for San Antonio, which improved to 17-6 at home.
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich collected his 1,126th career victory, leaving him one shy of tying the league record for most wins with one franchise held by Utah’s Jerry Sloan.
“I’m not sure (how to help the second unit),’’ Westbrook said. “We have to figure it out. Sometimes you have to figure it out. I’ll do a better job of trying to figure some things out myself to be able to at least help that second unit out whatever it is I can do.’’