Clippers get good news on Russell Westbrook before win over Portland

Los Angeles Clippers guard Russell Westbrook (0) in the first half of an NBA basketball game.

The Clippers expect Russell Westbrook to return this week after missing most of March with a fractured left hand.

Westbrook was cleared to play and could return as early as Monday night when the Clippers face the Indiana Pacers at Arena, a person with knowledge of the situation not authorized to speak publicly said.

Clippers coach Tyronn Lue wouldn’t give an exact timetable for Westbrook’s return. The veteran guard hasn’t played since March 1 and had surgery earlier this month.

“Russ is doing well,” Lue said before the Clippers defeated the Portland Trail Blazers 125-117 on Friday night. “He’ll play sometime next week.”

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If Westbrook doesn’t play Monday, he could return on the road — the Clippers play at Philadelphia on Wednesday and at Orlando on Friday.

Westbrook, who has shifted to a reserve role this season, has averaged 11.1 points, 5.1 rebounds and 4.4 assists in 58 games. The Clippers are 6-5 since his injury.

The Clippers (44-25) are 7-5 in March as they continue to trek through a 17-game slate this month. They already have played three sets of back-to-back games during the stretch and still have one more before the month ends.

“It’s just something that we have to play through,” Lue said. “It’s a good test for us, mentally and physically. So, we’re up for the challenge and we’re good.”

James Harden, who had a double-double with 15 points and 10 assists, said he was looking forward to Westbrook’s return, citing his “veteran leadership, which helps us on the court. Also, he’s on the same mission we’re on, I mean, that’s to win a championship. So, glad to have him back.”

The Clippers are getting healthier. Forward Terance Mann returned to the lineup Friday after sitting out one game because of a right shoulder strain. With Westbrook’s anticipated return, all the Clippers need to be whole is for Norman Powell to return from a lower leg bruise that has kept the star sixth man out the last three games.

But with Paul George cooking and Kawhi Leonard and Mann productive, the Clippers had a pretty easy time completing a two-game sweep at Portland.

George had 31 points on 10-for-14 shooting and was four for eight on three-pointers, all in three quarters. Leonard had 22 points on nine-for-15 shooting and Mann had 20 points on seven-for-12 shooting.

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The Clippers' bench, however, struggled late as Portland (19-51) went on 29-11 run to close the game. Scoot Henderson finished with 24 points and 10 assists for the Trail Blazers.

The victory allowed the Clippers to keep a 1½-game lead over the New Orleans Pelicans in the super-tough Western Conference. With the Clippers at No. 4 and New Orleans at No. 5, the teams are on a collision course to meet in the playoffs.

Home-court advantage continues to be at stake for the Clippers over their final 13 games.

“We’re not looking at them,” George said about the Pelicans. “I mean, it’s more so about us. We got to play well and not worry about, ‘We’re in the driver’s seat,' to say."

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.