PORTLAND, Ore. — This year's Rookie of the Year is liable to have nightmares about Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Make that the Northwest Division champion Oklahoma City Thunder — three times over, to be exact.
Westbrook scored a game-high 33 points to lead the Thunder to a thorough 106-90 dismantling of a depleted Portland team playing out the string of what's been a trying ending to its season.
Meanwhile, the Thunder won for the ninth time in 11 games and moved one victory shy of securing its first 60-win season in the franchise's Oklahoma City era.
With the Denver Nuggets losing in overtime down in Dallas, the Thunder had already wrapped up its third consecutive division title long before the final buzzer. But the win ensured the Thunder didn't back its way into this year's division crown and, with San Antonio winning at home against Sacramento, also kept OKC a half-game ahead of the Spurs in the race for first place in the Western Conference standings.
“You have to take pride in it, there's no question. One of your goals every year is to win your division, and we've done it three straight years,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. “I give our guys all the credit. They've worked hard.”
Westbrook said winning the division is not something the Thunder takes for granted.
“It's great, man,” he said. “That's not a given. It's a lot of guys that came back better and put in a lot of work to put ourselves in a position to win it again so it's great.”
After losing its seventh straight home game, a franchise record, Portland fell to 33-46. The Blazers were without customary starters Wesley Matthews and Nicolas Batum due to injuries and didn't have nearly enough weapons to keep pace with the high-powered Thunder.
That left Blazers guard Damian Lillard, the presumed Rookie of the Year, staring at another Thunder defense that's been plenty stingy against him this season. Lillard scored just 10 points on 3-for-14 shooting. He added three rebounds and eight assists in 37 minutes.
In the four-game series against the Thunder, Lillard averaged just 14.8 points, 3.5 rebounds and 7.5 assists while shooting 35 percent in 38.5 minutes.
His season averages are 19.1 points, 3.1 rebounds, 6.5 assists and 42.9 percent shooting.
“We locked in on him,” Brooks said. “We know that he's a primary scorer on their team and he's really good … We've done a good job of stopping the ball. We don't want a lot of penetration, and we did a good job of keeping him out of the paint.”
All-Star forward LaMarcus Aldridge struggled just as much as Lillard, finishing with 12 points on 6-for-14 shooting. Portland's top scorer was rookie Will Barton, a second-round pick who averages 3.3 points. He finished with 18 but needed 19 shots to get it.
Much like the previous night at Golden State, the Thunder took control with a dominant third quarter. Only this time, Oklahoma City was even more impressive. The Thunder outscored the Blazers 26-7 in the period after holding Portland to 3-for-22 shooting.
With five turnovers in the third quarter, the Blazers coughed up the ball more times in the period than they scored it.
Westbrook scored 17 of his points in that third quarter, attacking on both drives and jump shots. He powered the Thunder to an 81-61 lead going into the fourth quarter.
The Blazers never got closer than 13.