LOS ANGELES — Russell Westbrook received a rousing ovation when he started and finished his LA Clippers debut.
Westbrook had as impressive a start as any point guard playing in his first game with the franchise. But the Clippers and Sacramento Kings weren’t done playing when Westbrook picked up his sixth personal foul in the second overtime.
The teams engaged in a breathtaking duel that ended as the second-highest scoring game in NBA history, with Sacramento repeatedly coming from behind before outlasting the Clippers 176-175 in two overtimes.
Not only was the sellout crowd of 19,068 at Crypto.com Arena in awe, but several members of the Clippers said they had never seen anything like the game they just played in.
“It’s crazy,” said Westbrook, who started and had 17 points, 14 assists and seven turnovers in 39 minutes before fouling out with 1:49 remaining in the second overtime. “I don’t know if I’ve ever been a part of a game with that many points. Fresh off the All-Star break, I guess.”
It was a game that featured back-and-forth scoring like an All-Star Game but one that was intensely competitive.
The Kings and Clippers scored the third- and fourth-most points in a game in NBA history, respectively, trailing only the Detroit Pistons‘ and Denver Nuggets 186-184 triple-overtime game on Dec. 13, 1983 as most points scored.
Both teams shot 58.6% or better from the field and combined to hit 44 3-pointers. Kawhi Leonard played his best game since tearing his right ACL in Game 4 of the second round against Utah on June, 14, 2021. He was dominant on both ends of the floor, finishing with 44 points on 16-of-22 shooting to go with four rebounds, four assists, three steals and two blocks in 46 minutes — the most minutes he has ever played in a regular-season game.
But it wasn’t enough to overcome the Kings’ duo of De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk. With Domantas Sabonis in foul trouble, Fox had 42 points and 12 assists while Monk scored 45 points and six assists off the bench. Fox and Monk are the first pair of teammates to each record 40 points and five assists in the same game since Westbrook and Paul George did it with Oklahoma City on Feb. 22, 2019, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.
The Clippers led 145-131 with 4:25 remaining in regulation, but they turned the ball over four straight times to fuel a 22-8 Sacramento run. Monk buried a 3 with 2.1 seconds left to force overtime.
The Clippers led by six in overtime and by six again in the second overtime but could not hold onto their lead. The Kings scored the final seven points to erase a 175-169 deficit in the final 1:46. The Clippers finished with 25 turnovers, which led to 42 Kings points.
The ending spoiled what otherwise was a terrific start to Westbrook’s Clippers career. After a tumultuous season and a half with the Los Angeles Lakers, Westbrook was traded to Utah, which bought him out of his contract.
George and other players on the Clippers lobbied for LA to sign Westbrook. On Friday night, he delivered. Westbrook pushed the pace, was aggressive attacking the rim while not settling for 3-point shots, and set up teammates for scores. Westbrook’s 14 assists are tied for the most in a team debut in Clippers franchise history, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
And while he did lead the team in turnovers with seven, Westbrook played with the type of control that Clippers coach Ty Lue wanted to see in just his first game with his new team after only two practices.
Westbrook made timely scores in the overtimes, drilling his only 3-pointer from the right corner with 3:32 left in the first overtime and scoring on a drive to the rim with 4:21 left in the second overtime. He also assisted Leonard and Mason Plumlee on two consecutive baskets with under three minutes left in the second overtime.
“It’s about what I imagined,” said George, who enjoyed his best season while playing with Westbrook in Oklahoma City in 2018-19. “The reason why I was high on Russ being a part of this team was because of what he brings, and you saw the flashes of it tonight.”
George, Leonard and Lue helped convince Clippers management to sign Westbrook, and his debut saw the team set a franchise record in points and season highs in assists (39) and made 3-pointers (26).
“We needed a point guard,” George said. “We needed somebody that you saw tonight, somebody to get us in offense, somebody to get us easy baskets and a floor general. That was just a necessity that we needed.”
Westbrook played a good amount without the ball in his hands, waiting to attack when he got the ball or setting screens as well.
“Just trying to find ways to be effective while I’m on the floor,” Westbrook said. “And whatever is asked of me, screening, whatever, rolling, handling, whatever that may be. Cutting. Just try to do different things to impact the game and using my IQ to be able to make plays for others.”
Westbrook said he will watch film of the high-octane game to see how he can play better alongside Leonard and George and improve upon an impressive debut.
It was a night in which the Clippers’ crowd embraced Westbrook from the moment he came out for warmups to when he fouled out in the second overtime.
“Just the ability to be able to go out and compete,” Westbrook said of what he will remember from his debut. “I think that’s something I don’t take for granted, being somewhere [and] given an opportunity to go play. Not just that, but the support of the organization, my teammates, the fans, overall, it’s a great debut but just didn’t get the win.
“And that’s the sad part about it, but taking that out of it, just being able to go out and compete, the support system around this was at an all-time high. So I’m very appreciative of that.”