Russell Westbrook continued his statistical assault on the NBA record book Tuesday, notching his 41st triple-double of the season, tying Oscar Robertson’s 55-year-old record with five games left to play for the Thunder. It was the seventh straight triple-double for the Oklahoma City guard, making him the first NBA player to have two such streaks in one season.
Westbrook posted 12 points, 13 rebounds and 13 assists in just 27 minutes — he reached the record-tying threshold in his 22nd minute of court time — as his squad romped past the Bucks at home, 110-79. With 822 rebounds total, Westbrook is already guaranteed to have a double-double on the season, and he needs just 16 more assists to become the first player since Robertson in 1961-62 to average a triple-double over a full campaign.
Westbrook is also in strong contention for this year’s NBA most valuable player award, and fans at Oklahoma City’s Chesapeake Energy Arena chanted “MVP! MVP!” after his 10th assist, which came in the third quarter and clinched the triple-double. During a stoppage in play a short time later, the achievement was announced in the arena, and the six-time all-star waved to the crowd.
— OKC THUNDER (@okcthunder) April 5, 2017
When asked after the game if it had been his goal to average a triple-double, Westbrook replied, “No, no it wasn’t.” He told reporters (via ESPN), “I just play, man, honestly. It definitely wasn’t a goal, just going out and trying to win. Leadership to me was more important than averaging points or field goal percentage or whatever, because I think that’s what gets us the farthest and helps us win a championship.”
“It’s historic. If what he’s doing wasn’t so difficult we’d have a lot more people being able to do it,” Thunder Coach Billy Donovan said before the game. “So I think it speaks to his ability to impact games in so many different ways, whether that’s scoring, rebounding or assists. He can do it in a variety of ways. I think he’s a very unique player, a player that maybe the league hasn’t seen in quite some time because of what he can do in between the lines. So there’s no question what he’s done is remarkable.”
It was the 78th triple-double of Westbrook’s career, tying him with Wilt Chamberlain for fourth place in NBA annals. With 181, Robertson has the most, followed by Magic Johnson (138) and Jason Kidd (107). Now the head coach of Milwaukee, Kidd said before Tuesday’s game that Westbrook will be “cheated” if he doesn’t MVP this season.
Thunder's Russell Westbrook has more triple-doubles in 2016-17 than the NBA's last 7 expansion franchises have in their respective histories pic.twitter.com/n4ev4CFEJn
— Ben Golliver (@BenGolliver) April 5, 2017
Westbrook’s 12 points Tuesday were his fewest of the season, which stood in contrast to the 57 he scored Wednesday against the Magic, setting a new NBA standard for most points ever in a triple-double. The records continue to fall, and Robertson recently said he was “rooting” for Westbrook to break his single-season mark.
“I always thought he was a great basketball player,” the 78-year-old Robertson said of the 28-year-old Thunder guard. “I was talking to some basketball people the other night, and I said, ‘I don’t think any of these guards can beat him on a one-on-one game.’ I think he’s been tremendous for the team, his fans and also for television.”
Some contend that Westbrook is padding his stats, and, indeed, he leads the league in uncontested defensive rebounds, at a whopping 7.8 per game, as his team makes a practice of letting him grab as many available balls as he can. On the other hand, that strategy has the result of getting the ball into Westbrook’s hands as early and often as possible, which had worked out better for him and his 44-33 squad than anyone could have foreseen.