Last year, Russell Westbrook became the first player to average a triple-double over the course of a full season since Oscar Robertson did it all the way back in the 1961-62 season. What you might not realize, though, is that the NBA’s reigning Most Valuable Player is now just one monster game on the glass away from doubling up on that slice of NBA history.
Westbrook entered the Oklahoma City Thunder’s Monday night matchup with the Miami Heat averaging 25.3 points per game, seventh-best in the NBA, and having totaled 788 assists and 766 rebounds through 78 appearances this season. Assuming he’d be suiting up for the Thunder’s final two games of the season to hit an even 80 games played — a reasonable wager, considering he’s healthy and OKC still hadn’t yet clinched a playoff berth in the crowded and chaotic Western Conference — that meant he needed 12 more assists and 34 more rebounds over the final two games to get to 10 dimes and 10 boards per game for the season.
By night’s end, he was more than halfway there.
Westbrook fueled a dominant second half for the Thunder, who clamped down on Miami’s offense and attacked relentlessly to get themselves to the free-throw line, outscoring the Heat at the stripe by 16 points after halftime. With the energy of Westbrook, Paul George and reserve forward Jerami Grant propelling them forward, the Thunder drilled Miami 39-12 in the fourth quarter, blowing their host’s doors off down the stretch to secure a 115-93 road win that, with just one game remaining in the regular season, clinched a return to the playoffs for Billy Donovan’s club.
George didn’t completely thaw his frigid shooting, missing 12 of his 19 field-goal attempts as he continues to work through “forearm tightness.” But the All-Star did knock down five of his 13 3-point attempts and go 8-for-9 at the line to finish with a game-high 27 points. Grant was a difference-maker off the bench, scoring 17 points on just six shots to go with five rebounds in 21 minutes in the win, which improved OKC to 47-34, a half-game behind the Utah Jazz for the West’s No. 4 seed and home-court advantage in the opening round of the playoffs.
As ever, though, Westbrook was the story. He’d locked up his league-leading 25th triple-double of the season with two minutes to go in the third quarter, but kicked things up a notch in the fourth to push OKC past the finish line … and to push himself to within hailing distance of a second consecutive full-year triple-double, something that would’ve seemed unfathomable until Westbrook made it seem downright routine.
You can ding him for beelining for the rim to grab rebounds that could’ve been picked up by teammates if you want; it certainly seemed at times like Russ was counting down in his head during the second half. But, I mean, if you knew all you needed was 17 rebounds a game for your next two games to do something nobody in the history of your line of work had ever done, wouldn’t you go for it?
Well, whatever your answer is, Russ went for it, pulling down a season-high 18 rebounds to go with his 13 assists (check) and 23 points in 38 minutes. Westbrook got his numbers, the Thunder got their win, and Oklahoma City’s in the playoffs for the eighth time in the last 10 years. We don’t know yet who the Thunder will face in Round 1, but with only 16 boards and the Memphis Grizzlies separating Russ from another eye-popping season-long stat line, we do know that we’ve got a reason to tune into Wednesday’s regular-season finale.
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