MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

January 25, 2013

Westbrook joins Durant as All-Star


Associated Press

— NEW YORK (AP) — Oklahoma City guard Russell Westbrook was selected to his third consecutive All-Star game as a reserve, and almost had a teammate join him.

Except that teammate wound up in Houston before the season.

James Harden made the team in his first season as a member of the Rockets, which essentially kept the defending Western Conference champions from landing two reserves on the team to go with Kevin Durant, selected as a starter by fans in voting. It is Harden’s first time as a selection.

Westbrook is currently averaging 22.7 points (seventh in NBA), 8.1 assists (fifth in NBA), 5.3 rebounds and 1.91 steals (fifth in NBA) in 36.5 minutes per game.During last season’s All-Star game in Orlando, Westbrook finished with 21 points to go along with five rebounds in 28 minutes of action.

Tim Duncan was selected to his 14th All-Star game, Spurs teammate Tony Parker is joining him, and the Chicago Bulls also had two reserves chosen Thursday for next month's game in Houston.

Joakim Noah and Luol Deng were picked from the Bulls, who have stayed in the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff race despite the season-long absence of point guard Derrick Rose. Noah is one of five first-time All-Stars for the East, along with New York's Tyson Chandler, Indiana's Paul George, Cleveland's Kyrie Irving, and Philadelphia's Jrue Holiday.

Miami's Chris Bosh, picked for his eighth All-Star team, rounded out the East squad.

West forwards David Lee (Golden State), LaMarcus Aldridge (Portland) and Zach Randolph (Memphis) all were picked for the second time.

Duncan wasn't chosen last year for the first time in his career but has bounced back with a terrific season at age 36, averaging 17.5 points, 9.8 rebounds and 2.7 blocked shots, his best statistics since 2009-10.

The co-MVP of the 2000 All-Star game joined a group that includes Michael Jordan for fifth-most selections. Kobe Bryant and Kevin Garnett, both voted to start, and Shaquille O'Neal all were picked 15 times. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is the career leader as a 19-time All-Star.

The reserves were voted by the head coaches from each conference, who had to select two guards, three frontcourt players and two players regardless of position. They were not allowed to vote for players from their own teams.

With centers Chandler and Noah, East coaches passed on Brooklyn's Brook Lopez, the leading scorer for a resurgent team that is right behind the Knicks for the Atlantic Division lead. Perennial All-Stars Deron Williams and Joe Johnson of the Nets also missed out, as did Boston's Paul Pierce.

Lee gave the Warriors their first All-Star since Latrell Sprewell in 1997, but coach Mark Jackson and his team hoped for more. However, Stephen Curry wasn't selected despite averaging 20.9 points — the league's eighth-leading scorer and the highest one who won't be in Houston for the Feb. 17 showcase.

Voted as East starters by fan voting along with Garnett were Miami's LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, New York's Carmelo Anthony and Boston's Rajon Rondo.

The West starting five is Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard of the Lakers, Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant, and Clippers teammates Chris Paul and Blake Griffin.

The Clippers were hoping for a third All-Star, but sixth man Jamal Crawford wasn't picked.



Late-show loss



Stephen Curry had 31 points and seven assists for Golden State in the Warriors’ 104-99 win over the Thunder late Wednesday night.

The Warriors, with one playoff appearance since 1994, are 26-15 and own the fifth-best record in the Western Conference with another 41 games to play. Golden State also is the only team to beat the Thunder, Miami Heat and Los Angeles Clippers this season.

Kevin Durant had 33 points, nine assists and five rebounds, and Kevin Martin scored 16 points for the Thunder, who blew an eight-point lead in the fourth quarter a night after running away with a win at the Los Angeles Clippers. Oklahoma City (33-10) had won seven of eight but still remains at the top of the NBA standings as it continues its west coast swing at Sacramento tonight. They are currently 2-2 on the trip and 6-3 on the second night of back-to-back games this season.

“We could have been much better defensively,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. “They made a lot of plays inside the paint but they got a lot of points off of our turnovers, too. We didn't make enough plays down the stretch and they did. They deserved to win this game.”