<
>

Washington Wizards' Russell Westbrook finishes 1 assist short of 7th straight triple-double in OT win over New Orleans Pelicans

Washington Wizards guard Russell Westbrook came up one assist short of recording his seventh consecutive triple-double on Friday night, but he did come away with a much more meaningful stat: The victory.

Westbrook hit two free throws with 1.9 seconds left in overtime to lift the Wizards to a 117-115 win over the New Orleans Pelicans.

As time ticked away late in the extra period, Westbrook found himself one-on-one with Pelicans forward Zion Williamson. As Westbrook went to take a mid-range jumper to put Washington ahead, Williamson slightly nicked Westbrook's elbow for the foul call.

When asked if he was surprised he got the call, Westbrook said he was not.

"It was a foul," he added. "If it wouldn't have been a foul, then it would've been a bucket."

Westbrook finished with 36 points, 15 rebounds and nine assists but did most of his damage down the stretch. He had 10 points in overtime and assisted on the Wizards' only other overtime bucket.

Westbrook said his mindset down the stretch was just to "close the game."

"A lot of guys struggled tonight," Westbrook said. "That's part of my job is to kind of see where we need some help at and scoring was that tonight. I made sure I was aggressive, especially in the closing minutes of the game."

Closing games is becoming something the Wizards can depend on Westbrook to do.

In clutch minutes this season according to NBA.com, defined as when the score is within five points in the final minutes of the game, Westbrook is shooting a league-best 55.7 percent from the field (minimum 50 FGA). That's over two percentage points better than second-best Damian Lillard (53.4%) and nearly five points over Jamal Murray and James Harden (50.9%), who are in third and fourth on that list.

"When I play the game, I always feel like the game will tell you what to do," Westbrook said. "Some nights it may be passing, some nights it may be going help rebound or defend a little better. You may need lead a little better. Sometimes maybe scoring.

"For me, as the game goes on, I try to figure out how I can impact the game. When the game is on the line, as this particular time, my particular job was to score."

Westbrook's performance helped the Wizards overcome a terrible shooting night from beyond the arc. Westbrook went 3-of-6 from three-point range but the rest of the Wizards combined to go just 1-of-21.

The 14.8 three-point percentage was the worst shooting night of the season from deep, let alone the worst shooting performance in a victory.

Wizards guard Bradley Beal, who shot 0-of-9 from deep, was quick to point out what Westbrook's performance meant.

"He's been playing great since All-Star break. He's healthy. That's the biggest thing," Beal said. "We know what he's capable of doing too. He's just finding his groove. He's constantly bettering himself and his teammates.

"He's an unbelievable leader. His main thing is trying to win games, whatever that looks like. He was exceptional tonight and we're going to continue to need him to be that way."

The win was the third in a row for Washington and fifth in six games. Washington now sits the same amount of games back as the Toronto Raptors and Chicago Bulls. Washington and Chicago share a 22-33 record while Toronto is slightly ahead on percentage points at 23-34.

Beal said he's "100%" watching the standings at the point in the season, trying to see where the Wizards can get to.

"I want to try and see if we can squeeze [up] a little further," Beal said. "I know it's tough with these games counting down, but I think if we can put a nice little run together, we can give ourselves a nice little chance."