It took 77 games, but Russell Westbrook recorded his record-tying 41st triple-double.
As Westbrook walked off the court, the Oklahoma City Thunder faithful harmoniously showered him with MVP chants, but that doesn’t matter. Oscar Robertson is one of the greatest guards ever to grace the hardwood, and now there’s only one other player who’s mentioned alongside him when talking about triple-doubles.
We’ve been spoiled, frankly. Russ has his second streak of seven-straight triple-doubles this season, and underneath those remarkable stretches are a pair of 50-point efforts, making him and James Harden the only players in league history to have a triple-double with that many points — let alone two.
The contest against the Milwaukee Bucks was nationally televised, and it shouldn’t have been. If Westbrook weren’t on the verge of etching his name into the record books, it would’ve been a waste of everyone’s time. Once the smoke cleared from the Thunder’s bombarding of Milwaukee’s defense, it was a 31-point victory for Oklahoma City, and Russ’ accomplishment was so monumental that it’s taking headlines over the team’s drubbing. And it should.
It was a quick start for Westbrook — very quick. After the first, he already had seven points and six rebounds, but the assists were lacking. Despite making 11 field goals as a team, Westbrook assisted on just two of them, which is bizarre in and of itself because their offense doesn’t move unless he’s the one throwing the coals into the boiler.
He was much more passive in the second and is it a coincidence that the Thunder threw up 35 points? I don’t think so. Westbrook assisted on six of their 14 makes and only scored five of Oklahoma City’s 35. In addition, he actually let other players get rebounds! Those who nit-pick Russ for “stat-padding” (insert the GIF of Nick Young looking at the camera confused) must’ve been elated.
By halftime, Westbrook was just two rebounds and two dimes shy of history; he already had 12 points despite missing five of his nine attempts, and the Thunder were up big on the Bucks, 63-39.
After going scoreless, handing out five assists and hauling in five rebounds in the third, Westbrook had finally reached the point we were waiting for. He departed with 2:35 left in the period and didn’t need to come back.
His final line glistened with 13 rebounds and 13 helpers, but the points column was lacking, a rarity from the league’s most voluminous scorer. On just 4-of-12 shooting, Westbrook collected 12 points and set a new season-low — he got 10, though, so that’s all that matters.
A horde of Russ’ critics always go back to his volume shooting or high turnovers when picking apart the potential MVP, and his history-tying triple-double didn’t feature any of that. We talked about the points already, but the most glaring stat is his two turnovers — the guy who averages 5.4 a game had just two while dishing out 13 dimes. It’s impressive, and just the seventh time he’s had two or fewer.
The final stat that makes this performance more un-Westbrook-like is his oddly low usage rate. At just 26.1 percent, it’s the third-lowest of the year for him, and he’s the same player whose 41.7 is going to obliterate the single-season record for that metric (38.7 by Kobe Bryant in 2005-06).
With five games left on the schedule, a record is all but set. It’s no secret that the Thunder need this other-worldly production from Westbrook to win games and they’re fighting for the best seed possible heading into the postseason.
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