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ICYMI: A Vintage Russell Westbrook Game Fuels the Thunder

Plus: Vince Carter turns back the clock, Jimmy Butler brings it in overtime, peak Rondo makes history, and Lauri Markkanen shuts the door on the Knicks

NBA: Toronto Raptors at Oklahoma City Thunder Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Everything you need to know about Wednesday’s games around the NBA.

The Way of Westbrook

Sure, offensive synergy is nice, and yes, ball movement is efficient. But sometimes, you just want to kick back and indulge in some one-man hero ball. It’s like that guilty-pleasure chocolate bar or TV show you try to avoid and just can’t, but hey, it’s the holidays, you can treat yourself to some patented Russell Westbrook basketball.

Against the Raptors Wednesday night, Russ did all of the things that make him, well, Russ.

He was a lightning bolt in the fastbreak:

He dunked with vigor:

He stubbornly held onto the ball and made a scene when Jonas Valanciunas tried to take it away (they were both given double technicals):

And he took a team-high 22 shots on his way to 30 points, 13 assists, and eight rebounds. The Thunder trounced the Raptors 124-107, and OKC has now won six in a row.

Jimmy’s Buckets Don’t Stop in Regulation

It almost looked like the Wolves would finally be able to get some rest. After all, they were up 19 on the Nuggets in the third quarter. Almost. Denver rallied back and tied the game in regulation, sending it to overtime where a Minnesota team sans Karl-Anthony Towns (who fouled out) had to call on Jimmy Butler to take over.

And of course, he did.

Butler scored 11 points in overtime, and assisted the only other made shot in the period. The Wolves survived, 128-125, and Butler got to talk the talk:

Future Ball Boy

You know the kiss cam. You’ve seen (and winced) at arena proposals. You’ve gawked at half-court shots from fans. But this is a level of entertainment you (and the Pacers’ Damien Wilkins) were not ready for.

The Pacers lost 98-94 to the Mavs, but Wilkins won. Mazel tov, Damien.

The Old King Beat the King

The Cavaliers ran into some West Coast trouble Wednesday when they traveled to Sacramento to face the Kings, whose old (and young) heads were ready to put up a fight. The clock was Vince Carter’s to turn and he wound it up to the level of his opposition, going for 24 points in 29 minutes in the Kings’ 109-95 victory. Carter, who I must remind you is 40 years old, was willfully ignorant of his limitations on this particular night; he was simply going for it, pulling up both from deep ...

… and stepping back for fadeaway jumpers like it was his heyday.

Carter’s performance—which was brought to you by the Fountain of Youth #sponcon—allowed him to join elite company, becoming the second-oldest player in NBA history to have a 20-point game. Only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar did it at an older age.

The rest of the Kings’ bench scored a total of 68 points to ensure the upset victory, including 17 from Willie Cauley-Stein and 16 from Bogdan Bogdanovic, who wears the no. 8 jersey, thus making it easy for Kings Twitter to aptly nickname him “BB-8.”

Teenage Dream

In the Celtics’ 102-91 win over the Hornets Wednesday night, Jayson Tatum wasn’t the leading scorer, or even the next-top scorer on his own team. But what he exhibited in terms of output and highlight material was enough to make him the most notable figure from this contest.

Tatum began the game by scoring eight in the first quarter. He finished by closing out the close game for the Celtics with 10 points in the fourth, while tacking on five rebounds, two steals, and two blocks. The rookie’s offensive game is as polished as porcelain, and his footwork looks like a that of a 10-year veteran. Oh, and he can do this too:

Any conversation about Tatum’s early rise has to begin with the fact that he is still 19 years old. Nineteen. At that age, I was barely dragging myself to my 8 A.M. poli-sci class. Tatum is out here demanding more playing time and shots only a handful of games into his NBA career.

James Harden Plans to Join the Meek Mill Movement

Kevin Durant: Shot Blocker

Coming off a five-block performance against the Cavaliers on Christmas Day, Kevin Durant once again became the Warriors’ chief rim protector Wednesday, when they outscored the Utah Jazz by 20 points in the third quarter and beat them with ease, 126-101.

Durant swatted three blocks, making it the 12th game this season where he’s had at least three blocks in a game. Last season, it took him the entire campaign to get 12 of those three-block games.

Jumpin’ John Collins

The Hawks upset the Wizards Wednesday 113-99. It was a bad loss for Washington—who allowed every Atlanta starter to score in double digits—but a good night to remind us all that John Collins has hops on defense:

And on offense:

Peak Rondo Is Back

In the Pelicans’ 128-113 win over the Nets Wednesday, Rondo totaled a career-high, franchise-record 25 assists in 30 minutes. He added just two points. It’s been a while since we’ve seen this version of Rondo, and man, I didn’t realize how much I missed him.

Plot twist: The game was not on national TV!

Lauri Locks It Down

Down by as many as 15 during the third quarter of Wednesday night’s matchup with the Knicks, the suddenly scrappy Bulls rallied back to take the lead in the final minute of their matchup with the Knicks. What got them the edge was this dunk by Lauri Markkanen:

What finished it was the Finnisher turning it up on defense:

The Bulls, yes these Bulls, have now won nine out of their last 11.

Ian Eagle, the Legend

From here on out, no other nickname besides “The Fro” is acceptable for Jarrett Allen. Eagle hath decreed.

Fultz Back?

Elastic Nance