At this point, it's almost more surprising when Russell Westbrook doesn't tally a triple-double. He did it again Tuesday, leading the Oklahoma City Thunder to a 124-102 victory over the Denver Nuggets at the Pepsi Center with 13 points, 14 rebounds and 12 assists.
Westbrook entered the game fresh off receiving the Western Conference Player of the Month award for March, per NBA.com, and he managed to dictate the tempo of the contest despite taking only nine shots.
NBA.com/Stats put Westbrook's league-high 17 triple-doubles into historical perspective:
Though Magic Johnson tallied 18 triple-doubles in 1981-82, Westbrook still has four games remaining this season to equal the feat. The Thunder point guard has already equaled Johnson in one area, per the NBA:
Erik Horne of the Oklahoman suggested Westbrook's triple-doubles "should have a stat column of [their] own," which is a testament to his ability to impact the game in so many ways. He did much of his damage early in Tuesday's contest and helped the Thunder seize a 68-51 lead by halftime on the way to the straightforward victory.
Westbrook teamed up with Kevin Durant (who finished with 26 points and eight assists) to put the game out of reach early, as the Thunder shared:
Rachel Nichols of ESPN was impressed with how quickly the former UCLA star reached his 17th triple-double:
Westbrook notched double-digit points and rebounds before his 10th assist and may have been looking to add a bit of flair to the triple-double-clinching dime. He found Andre Roberson for an alley-oop on a backdoor cut and lobbed the ball over the helpless Denver defense:
Westbrook has been on a triple-double tear since the start of March and even tied Michael Jordan's all-time record of seven in a calendar month, per the Elias Sports Bureau (via ESPN Stats & Info). Any time an NBA player's name appears alongside His Airness is worth noting, and Westbrook hasn't let up since the calendar flipped to April.
Tuesday was his second game this month, and he narrowly missed a triple-double in his first with 23 points, 13 rebounds and nine assists in a loss to the Houston Rockets on Sunday. Here is a look at his recent triple-doubles:
|Russell Westbrook's Triple-Doubles Since March|
|March 6||Milwaukee Bucks||15||11||10|
|March 9||Los Angeles Clippers||25||19||11|
|March 14||Portland Trail Blazers||17||16||10|
|March 18||Philadelphia 76ers||20||10||15|
|March 19||Indiana Pacers||14||14||11|
|March 22||Houston Rockets||21||15||12|
|March 28||Toronto Raptors||26||12||11|
|April 5||Denver Nuggets||13||12||14|
Speaking of Jordan, it was almost as if the brand could tell the future when it tweeted this before Tuesday's game:
The contest against the Nuggets was never in doubt after Oklahoma City extended its advantage to 30 points by the end of the third quarter. As a result, Westbrook played only 27 minutes and didn't get the opportunity to pad his head-turning stat line in the fourth quarter.
The fact that the game wasn't in doubt comes as no surprise considering the Thunder have a habit of winning when Westbrook tallies a triple-double, via NBA on ESPN:
It was yet another excellent outing for the superstar point guard as Thunder fans begin to turn their attention toward the postseason.
Oklahoma City has four more games remaining in the regular season against the Portland Trail Blazers, Sacramento Kings, Los Angeles Lakers and San Antonio Spurs. Westbrook could surpass Johnson if he continues to play like he did Tuesday, although the Thunder will likely limit his minutes in some of those games with an eye on staying fresh for the playoffs.
They are all but assured to be the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference, and postseason success or failure will be remembered for even longer than Westbrook's triple-double prowess in 2015-16. Oklahoma City hasn't reached an NBA Finals since it lost to the Miami Heat in 2012, and it may be running out of time with Durant set to be a free agent this offseason and Westbrook after next season.
John Schuhmann of NBA.com shared a game plan for the Thunder that would probably work in the playoffs:
As outrageous as it might seem to expect something like that, Westbrook is playing at an unreal level heading into the final few regular-season games. Don't rule it out just yet.
Westbrook was humbled to be among such great company after the win, telling reporters: "It's a great honor. Whenever you're mentioned in the same sentence as Magic, it's always great. That's something you never take for granted."
Thunder head coach Billy Donovan recognized the myriad ways Westbrook can impact a contest, saying: "He's one of those rare guys that can dominate a game without taking a shot. He distributed, he rebounded, he pushed the tempo. He created a lot of scoring opportunities for our team."
Denver head coach Michael Malone praised Westbrook and the Thunder as well: "It's a scary team. They have one of the highest-octane offenses in the NBA, and we saw that tonight."
Thunder fans hope they see that throughout the playoffs.