Russell Westbrook's torrid pace in the second half of this season continued Sunday. The Oklahoma City Thunder MVP candidate seemingly had another triple-double in the team's 93-75 victory over the Miami Heat; however, Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman revealed that a stat change takes away his triple-double:
Darnell Mayberry @DarnellMayberry
An official review by the NBA has determined that Russell Westbrook had nine rebounds Sunday against Miami. It takes away his triple-double.2015-3-23 23:25:27
Bleacher Report @BleacherReport
Russell Westbrook records his 10th triple-double of the season (and 2nd in 2 games) in OKC’s 93-75 win over Miami http://t.co/sIADjliujq2015-3-22 21:27:34
Per NBA.com Stats on Twitter, Westbrook equaled a career-best 17 assists in addition to scoring 12 points and grabbing 10 rebounds, which has since been changed to nine:
Westbrook drops 12pts, 10rebs & a career-high tying 17 assists. Has 10 triple doubles this season - 8 in his last 13 games @okcthunder2015-3-22 21:31:06
Bleacher Report's Ethan J. Skolnick discussed whether Westbrook has the best shot among NBA players to ever break Oscar Robertson's record for most triple-doubles in a season, at the 1:51 mark in the following video:
This would have made Westbrook's latest triple-double unique amid this incredible run, because he's often required to score 25-30 points as the team's primary scorer, with rebounding and distributing the ball being secondary. This time, the 26-year-old got everyone involved without needing to match his league-leading 27.8 points per game to win.
That's not to say Westbrook shied away from shooting, as he attempted 16 field goals and only hit five of them, but a comfortable win in which he didn't drop a lot of points is a positive sign.
Oh, by the way, Westbrook also provided help on defense with four steals and two blocks, including this one on Heat guard Goran Dragic:
Per ESPN Stats & Info, Westbrook would have done something that no player has done since Jason Kidd seven years ago:
ESPN Stats & Info @ESPNStatsInfo
Russell Westbrook: 1st player with 10 triple-doubles in a season since Jason Kidd (2007-08)2015-3-22 21:27:17
If that were the only impressive part of Westbrook's string of triple-doubles, it would be enough. Yet NBA on ESPN tweeted out a stat that somehow makes his efforts even more spectacular:
NBA on ESPN @ESPNNBA
Russell Westbrook has 8 triple-doubles since the All-Star break. The rest of the NBA has COMBINED for 9 in that same time.2015-3-22 21:33:11
With this win, thanks in large part to Westbrook, the Thunder improved their record to 40-30 and remain secure in the Western Conference's No. 8 spot.
Considering Oklahoma City has been playing most of this season without Kevin Durant, who may not be returning at all due to foot issues, Myles Brown is ready to make the case for Westbrook as the NBA's Most Valuable Player:
Myles Brown @mdotbrown
Watching Westbrook carry this lineup Makes it Very hard to believe anyone's Performed better.2015-3-22 20:49:12
The only legitimate argument against Westbrook at this point is that he has missed 16 of 70 possible games thus far. In comparison, other top candidates, like Stephen Curry (two games missed) and James Harden (one game missed), have been fortunate to stay healthy.
In terms of performance when healthy, Westbrook certainly belongs in the MVP conversation with anyone. Also, it's hard to ignore the difference he's made when in the Thunder lineup, as Anthony Slater of The Oklahoman noted:
Anthony Slater @anthonyVslater
Thunder now a dominant 24-4 at home with Russell Westbrook in the lineup. Lakers in OKC on Tuesday.2015-3-22 21:21:43
There's still plenty of time to debate Westbrook's MVP credentials. For now, let's just sit back and marvel at the unrivaled level at which this man continues to perform when his team needs every last bit of it. Heat coach Erik Spoelstra put it best, via Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel: "He's a force of nature right now. He's making the league watch."
Westbrook, who has always been one of the franchise cornerstones during the Thunder's run of success, has been thrust into a more prominent role with the uncertainty surrounding Durant's injury. He's held up his end of the bargain and shows no signs of slowing down.
Good luck, NBA.