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Russell Westbrook vs. Nuggets: Stats, Highlights and Reaction

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistApril 6, 2016

Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook picks up a loose ball and heads down the court against the Denver Nuggets during the first half of an NBA basketball game Tuesday, April 5, 2016, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
David Zalubowski/Associated Press

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:

NBA.com/Stats @nbastats

#TripleDoubleAlert 🚨Russ has @NBA-leading 17th triple double this season, 1 off Magic (18, 1981-82), for most since NBA/ABA merger (1976-77)

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:

NBA @NBA

With tonight's triple-double, @russwest44 has tied @MagicJohnson for the most in one season (17) since 1988-89! https://t.co/Mw0Dne8P4u

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:

OKC THUNDER @okcthunder

Russ/KD lead 18-0 run. Thunder UP 59-39. 4 mins till halftime https://t.co/eRp5Chpv9k

Rachel Nichols of ESPN was impressed with how quickly the former UCLA star reached his 17th triple-double:

Rachel Nichols @Rachel__Nichols

Geeze @russwest44 - took Russ just 22 minutes to rack up his 17th triple double of the season, tying @MagicJohnson's record. #ThunderUp

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
DateOpponentPointsAssistsRebounds
March 6Milwaukee Bucks151110
March 9Los Angeles Clippers251911
March 14Portland Trail Blazers171610
March 18Philadelphia 76ers201015
March 19Indiana Pacers141411
March 22Houston Rockets211512
March 28Toronto Raptors261211
April 5Denver Nuggets131214
Source: ESPN.com

Speaking of Jordan, it was almost as if the brand could tell the future when it tweeted this before Tuesday's game:

Jordan @Jumpman23

Triple-double season. The Western Conference Player of the Month, @RussWest44. https://t.co/sLq9N19Nj0

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:

NBA on ESPN @ESPNNBA

Most consecutive wins when having a triple-double: Magic - 24 Wilt - 21 Westbrook - 17 Kidd - 16 (via @EliasSports) https://t.co/GfTLgzsgX9

It was yet another excellent outing for the superstar point guard as Thunder fans begin to turn their attention toward the postseason. 

What's Next?

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:

John Schuhmann @johnschuhmann

After tonight, the Thunder will be 17-0 when Westbrook records a triple-double. So if he can just get 16 more 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. 

Postgame Reaction

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.