Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook is no stranger to ridiculous statistical lines.
Indeed, we’ve become so accustomed to his jaw-dropping performances that there’s been virtually zero fanfare for the fact that he’s all but assured of averaging a triple-double for a third straight season.
But the Thunder superstar outdid himself Tuesday in a 119-103 victory over the Lakers, joining Wilt Chamberlain as the only players in NBA history to reach or surpass 20 points, 20 rebounds and 20 assists in a single game.
Chamberlain set the gold standard for NBA triple-doubles in 1968, piling up 22 points, 25 rebounds and 21 assists against the Pistons in what had for decades seemed to be one of his most unassailable feats, right up with his 50.4-point season and legendary 100-point game.
But despite an off shooting night that resulted in a scoreless first quarter, Westbrook followed suit with 20 points, 20 rebounds and 21 assists, pulling down one last board with 41 seconds remaining to check the final box.
“Overwhelming,” he said. “I’m humbled. I’m just thankful to be able to compete at a high level and play the game I love.”
Said teammate Paul George, “It’s just epic. Man. The heart of that guy, honestly, is what’s so amazing about it.”
Westbrook’s feat couldn’t have come at a better time for him or his team. Not only were the Thunder, who had lost 13 of 20 games since the All-Star break, in desperate need of a victory, it came just days after Westbrook’s friend, hip-hop artist and fellow Los Angeles native Nipsey Hussle, was murdered outside his clothing store in L.A.
“That wasn’t for me, that was for my bro — 20 plus 20 plus 20,” Westbrook said. “Rest in peace, Nipsey.”
To put Westbrook’s achievement into further perspective, there had only been 45 games of even 15/15/15 in NBA history entering Tuesday’s action, including seven by him.
And quadruple-doubles, as exceptionally rare as they are, have still been achieved four times, by Nate Thurmond (1974), Alvin Robertson (1986), Hakeem Olajuwon (1990) and David Robinson (1994).
But the double triple-double? A fraternity of one — until now.
Westbrook laid the foundation with a unique first quarter in which he failed to score but pulled down seven boards and dished out 10 assists. The latter total was notable (if esoteric) in and of itself, making Westbrook just the fifth player over the past 20 years with multiple double-digit assist quarters.
That would have been the highlight of Westbrook’s night in most other games. But as his scoring touch came around to match his additional production, it became apparent that something truly special was brewing.
Westbrook might have been the last to realize as he didn’t appear to be actively pursuing the feat until the final few minutes, when he began camping under the baskets in pursuit of boards.
And with a feat of such singular significance within his grasp, who could really blame him? Certainly not his fellow players, who were every bit as dumbstruck as anyone else who watched it unfold.
20 20 20 we know wat it is Russ that was legendary #LongLiveNip
— Richaun Holmes (@Rich_Holmes22) April 3, 2019
–to do any ONE of those things is hard! To do TWO is one of the best games of a person’s career. To do all THREE, and factor in the circumstances.. = Legendary.. https://t.co/nlvWZFlSkp
— Jamal Crawford (@JCrossover) April 3, 2019
Wow this is REAL💯
— Zach LaVine (@ZachLaVine) April 3, 2019
On the macro level, Westbrook continues to climb up the career triple-double list, with his 135 standing just three behind Magic Johnson in second place. Should he maintain his torrid pace in recent seasons, in which he’s averaged roughly 33 triple-doubles over the past three campaigns, Westbrook will have a shot at yet another seemingly untouchable mark, Oscar Robertson’s record of 181.
No matter where he ends up on the list, it’s unthinkable to imagine any of his future triple-doubles will match, let alone surpass, what Westbrook did Tuesday.
Then again, Russ has proven to be quite adept at doing the seemingly impossible.
Bay Area beatdown
It started well enough for the Nuggets, who led for most of the first quarter of their crucial Western Conference matchup with the Warriors before falling behind by six entering the second.
But from there? The two-time defending champions left absolutely no doubt that, despite their almost bizarrely inconsistent play this season, they are still very much the team to beat.
The 116-102 final didn’t do nearly enough justice to the full extent of the Warriors’ dominance. Shaking off their early deficit, they proceeded to steamroll the Nuggets with ruthless efficiency, steadily building their lead up to 30 in the fourth before finally shackling the dogs.
Not even Kevin Durant’s ejection in the third could slow the Warriors, who were otherwise fortified by the best performance of DeMarcus Cousins’ abbreviated season (28 points, 13 rebounds, five assists, two steals, two blocks) and a stifling defensive effort that limited the potent Nuggets to 37.5-percent shooting.
Cousins utterly dominated his matchup with Nuggets All-Star Nikola Jokic, who finished with just 10 points and five rebounds.
Boogie Cousins asking where Jokic at? LOL pic.twitter.com/2Sffzeg8ry
— gifdsports (@gifdsports) April 3, 2019
Not very sportsmanlike. But when you’ve spent the evening doing things like this to one of the best players in the NBA …
… you’re free to celebrate however you like.
And with all that, the Warriors have all but wrapped up first place in the West with both a two-game lead and the head-to-head tiebreaker entering the final week of play.
It’s just more proof that, until proven otherwise, they still have a gear no other team can come close to matching.
The streak continues
Brighter days lay ahead for the Hawks thanks to a promising young core led by Trae Young and John Collins.
They might even be able to win a game in San Antonio … eventually, anyway.
For now, despite a respectable effort in which the Hawks led for much of the fourth quarter before falling apart late, the Alamo City continues to be their personal house of horrors with 21 straight losses.
Atlanta’s last win in San Antonio came in February 1997, when:
1. Hawks legend Dominique Wilkins was still playing … for the Spurs.
2. Young was 19 months away from being born.
The Rockets enjoyed their latest 3-point extravaganza, sinking 26 against the Kings to tie the single-game record they set last December in a victory over Washington.
Of the 17 instances where an NBA team has hit 23 or more 3s, the Rockets now account for eight of them, with seven coming over the past three seasons alone.