The stars shined brightly in the Pacific Northwest on Thursday night in a game that oozed with playoff intensity.
Russell Westbrook had 37 points and Paul George added 32 points and 14 rebounds for the Oklahoma City Thunder in a chippy 129-121 overtime win over the Portland Trail Blazers.
Damian Lillard turned in an epic performance, finishing with 51 points, nine assists and five rebounds.
The end of regulation was filled with drama. Jusuf Nurkic took an elbow to the face from George, but George was not called for a foul. George missed his layup attempt on the play, but with Nurkic on the floor, Terrance Ferguson grabbed the rebound and scored with 13.1 seconds left to put Oklahoma City up 113-111.
Moments later, George and Nurkic jawed at each other and drew technical fouls with 4.4 seconds left. Because it was Nurkic’s second technical, he was ejected. Thunder coach Billy Donovan then chose reserve Skal Labissiere to shoot the Blazers’ two free throws in place of Nurkic. He missed both, but a loose-ball foul was called on the Thunder and Al-Farouq-Aminu made both shots to tie it at 113 with 2.9 seconds left.
After a turnover by the Thunder, the game went to overtime, where Westbrook scored eight points, including the go-ahead 3-pointer.
The victory gave the Thunder a four-game series sweep of the Blazers this season, and pulled them ahead of Portland and Houston, who entered the night in a three-way tie for No. 3 in the West.
Russ silencing the crowd 🤐😂 pic.twitter.com/xwhelCbfIa— NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) March 8, 2019
Enes Kanter reconnected with Westbrook before the game and received a nice cheer from fans at Moda Center as he checked in for his home debut in the first quarter. Kanter later introduced himself to woman sitting courtside while chasing down a loose ball.
After leading by as many as 14 points, the Bucks found themselves in a tight battle with the Pacers midway through the third quarter.
With the Bucks up 67-61, Giannis Antetokounmpo was hit hard on a dunk attempt. No whistle. Instead, Myles Turner was credited with a block and the Pacers went the other way, with Bojan Bogdanovic drilling a 3-pointer. Three-point game.
Antetokounmpo stayed under the basket in disbelief for a moment before getting up and running down an official to voice his displeasure, immediately getting assessed a technical.
Milwaukee responded with a 13-0 run. Antetokounmpo started the spurt with a dunk and finished it with another.
Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said the entire team fed off the technical foul.
"It felt like the whole arena, his teammates, I think everybody was probably somewhat frustrated, but I think that frustration got channeled into a great energy," Budenholzer said.
The Bucks never looked back on their way to a 117-98 victory, halting their first losing streak of the season.
Antetokounmpo finished with a team-high 29 points and 12 rebounds. He scored eight straight points in the final minutes, including two spectacular dunks.
Milwaukee's Got Talent
Can you name all 50 states in under 30 seconds? Bucks guard Sterling Brown can, and apparently without a mnemonic device. The video aired during a timeout and quickly went viral.
Brown, who missed his sixth straight game due to a right wrist injury, says he remembers "all 50 of these from social studies."
Carter not ready to retire
Eight-time All-Star Vince Carter said he wants to return for a record 22nd season if teams are interested in him this offseason.
When asked during an appearance Thursday on ESPN's "Pardon The Interruption" if he had an age in mind for when he wanted to retire, Carter said, "43."
"Yeah, I think I could stretch it out one more ... I think I could give it another year, so why not?" Carter said. "We'll see what happens."
If Carter does play next season, he will not only break the record for most seasons played, he will become the first NBA player to have played across four decades.
Carter, 42, is averaging 7.1 points this season in 16.6 minutes for the Atlanta Hawks. He's shooting a career-high 40.9 percent from deep.
Stat of the night
Damian Lillard now has five career 50-point games. The only players with more since Lillard's debut in 2012-13 are James Harden (13), Stephen Curry (6) and Kevin Durant (6)