MINNEAPOLIS — Russell Westbrook went out with a bang.
Westbrook scored 37 points in Oklahoma City’s 138-113 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday night that was rendered moot by New Orleans’ playoff-clinching in over San Antonio.
The Thunder needed a win in the regular season finale and a loss from the Pelicans against the Spurs to get into the playoffs. Westbrook locked up his first scoring title to hold up his end of the bargain, but the Pelicans beat the Spurs 108-103. That means the Thunder will miss the playoffs for the first time since Westbrook’s rookie season in 2008-09.
Andrew Wiggins had 23 points and six rebounds for the Timberwolves (16-66), who finished with the worst record in the league. They will have a 25 percent chance at the No. 1 draft pick when the NBA draft lottery is held on May 19.
Dion Waiters tied a career-high with 33 points and hit 5 of 8 3-pointers and Enes Kanter had 25 points and 15 rebounds for the Thunder (45-37), who entered the season as one of the favorites in the Western Conference before losing Kevin Durant, Serge Ibaka and Westbrook to injuries for big chunks of time.
Westbrook has been a one-man wrecking crew for most of the season for the short-handed Thunder, and he laid siege to the hapless Timberwolves with a breathtaking first quarter. He hit 7 of 8 shots, both 3-pointers, and 7 of 8 free throws for 23 points to completely overwhelm a Timberwolves team that dressed nine players.
He punctuated the quarter with a blow by fellow UCLA product Zach LaVine for a layup, then hit a 3 for a 47-29 lead.
“Sheesh this guy is ridiculous,” injured teammate Kevin Durant tweeted in the second quarter.
He had 34 by halftime and went to the locker room no doubt seeing that the Pelicans had a 16-point halftime lead on the Spurs.
Prior to the game, Westbrook said he wasn’t going to be glancing at the scoreboard, but he started deferring in the second half when all appeared lost. San Antonio cut it to five in the fourth quarter, but Anthony Davis and Co. closed the defending champions out.
Westbrook watched the entire fourth quarter from the bench, and finished the season with an average of 28.1 points per game to beat out Houston’s James Harden. But the scoring title likely will be of little consolation for one of the game’s fiercest competitors.
“I never really thought I would be anything close to a scoring title,” Westbrook said. “I’d rather be in the playoffs than win a scoring title to tell you the truth.”
Kevin Martin scored 29 points for the Timberwolves, who finished the season with 12 straight losses.
Thunder: The 76 points in the first half were their second-highest total this season. ... The Thunder outscored the Wolves 64-42 in the paint.
Timberwolves: Wiggins said he will play for the Canadian national team during Olympic qualifying this summer. There was some question about it after all the minutes he played in his rookie season, but he said he thought he could get enough rest early before competition began in August. ... LaVine had 19 points and 13 assists.