Westbrook Saves Thunder With Historic Triple DoubleRussell Westbrook just produced the highest scoring triple double in NBA history, pouring in 57 points as he led the Oklahoma City Thunder to a 114-106 overtime victory versus the Orlando Magic. The Thunder trailed by 21 points midway through the third quarter before mounting the biggest comeback in Oklahoma City history and thereby clinching a playoff berth in the first season of the team's post-Kevin Durant era.
Westbrook added 13 rebounds and 11 assists in his 38th triple double of the season; with eight games to go, Westbrook needs three triple doubles to tie Oscar Robertson's single season record. Westbrook is also on track to join Robertson as the only players to average a triple double for an entire season. The Thunder are 31-7 this season when Westbrook posts a triple double and 43-31 overall, which is another way of saying that Westbrook's supporting cast is so weak that his team needs him to put up historically great numbers every game just to have a chance to win--but when Westbrook does put up historically great numbers, the Thunder almost always win.
Westbrook scored 26 points in the fourth quarter and overtime, including 19 points in the final 7:45 of regulation--capped off when he grabbed a defensive rebound, dribbled up court and calmly sank a 31 foot three pointer over two defenders to send the game to overtime.
Such game-saving heroics are nothing new for Westbrook, who scored 13 points in the final three minutes on Monday night to rescue the Thunder versus the Dallas Mavericks. Westbrook is the antithesis of players who pad their numbers without affecting the outcome of the game; his tremendous statistical production actually changes the outcome of the game. Several players are performing at an MVP level in 2016-17 but Westbrook is authoring a historic season that would lead to a landslide MVP victory if anyone else posted such numbers.
By the end of the Thunder's victory over the Magic, the Orlando fans serenaded Westbrook with "MVP" chants. Of course, media members never fail to find ways to attack Westbrook; one game recap noted that Westbrook was "hardly flawless" before opining, "Defeat is inevitable if he goes it alone. The only way the Thunder can change their destiny is to change their approach to the game. That starts with Westbrook. If he's really the NBA MVP, let's see him make his teammates better when the games matter the most."
I predicted the publication of that kind of trash almost three years ago to the day when I wrote, "One player seems poised to fill both of (Kobe) Bryant's roles--best guard in the NBA and vastly underrated superstar: Russell Westbrook." Keep in mind that when I made that declaration, many "experts" questioned if Westbrook could even play the point guard position, let alone become the best guard in the league. Those same "experts" criticized Westbrook for supposedly not deferring enough to Kevin Durant but it now looks like perhaps the Thunder would have been better served if Durant had deferred to Westbrook in the clutch.
When crime strikes Gotham City, the Bat Signal alerts Batman to spring into action; is there a "Daft Signal" that alerts "stat gurus" and their media acolytes to spring into action when Kobe Bryant (in previous seasons) or Russell Westbrook has a great game? I mean, the nets were still figuratively scorching from Westbrook's 57 points and the first words that come to mind for some fool who is actually paid to cover NBA games is that Westbrook was "hardly flawless"?
If you watch a player drop 57-13-11 while almost singlehandedly erasing a 21 point deficit and "hardly flawless" is the best description you can muster then you need to have your eyes checked, your brain examined and your game credentials revoked. Sure, everyone is entitled to his/her opinion but when you are being paid to accurately report/commentate and you are simply unwilling or incapable of performing that task at a minimally acceptable level then it is time to seek out another line of work.
On the other hand, here is an article that every MVP voter should be required to read: Sam Anderson's February 1, 2017 in depth profile titled The Misunderstood Genius of Russell Westbrook.
Here is Anderson's take on Westbrook's playing style:
Rebounding has always been one of Westbrook’s superpowers. He is athletic enough to leap through vast spaces, strong enough to bully people in close combat and, most important, persistent enough to get himself, with unholy urgency, to the places around the rim most likely to yield rebounds. I have seen Westbrook streak in from a distant corner of the floor to tip in a missed 3-pointer off the glass--a hurtling, perfectly timed run that looked almost like a center fielder's sprinting back to leap and steal a home run just as it cleared the wall.That was the prelude to Anderson's account of Westbrook's 27 point, 17 rebound, 14 assist performance in Madison Square Garden versus the Knicks early in this season. Here are some more nuggets from Anderson about that contest:
Even with his triple-double secured, Westbrook would not stop rebounding. My favorite of the night was his 14th: he drove, drew three defenders, passed to a teammate for a wide-open jump shot and ended up deep out of bounds. Instead of just hanging out there, admiring his handiwork, Westbrook turned, tracked the shot with his eyes, saw that it was falling short and, at precisely the moment the ball hit the front of the rim, exploded into the air with shocking intensity. It did not look like a normal professional basketball player trying to get his hand on a ball to extend a possession late in the third quarter of the 19th game of the season. It looked like a man in the middle of a winner-takes-all dunk contest against the Devil himself to prevent the incineration of planet Earth. It looked as if Westbrook were insulted by the very concept of distance, and so he annihilated it, soaring and spearing the ball out of the air from between two waiting Knicks. Spike Lee, courtside, was standing to celebrate the initial missed shot, but when Westbrook came flying in to seize it, he clutched his head in exasperation and hopelessness and despair.Westbrook does not possess Bryant's size or finely tuned footwork, nor is Westbrook's defense as good as Bryant's--but Westbrook has a similar competitive spirit, a similar work ethic and a similar ability to lift a limited team to solid playoff status. Westbrook has also demonstrated that he can perform at an All-NBA level for a perennial championship contender, as he did for the past six years when the Thunder advanced to the Western Conference Finals four times. I will say the same thing about Westbrook now that I did about Bryant circa 2006, when Bryant's critics loudly declared that he would never win a championship without Shaquille O'Neal: if Westbrook is provided with even a reasonably complete supporting cast, he is capable of leading his team to a championship.
posted by David Friedman @ 1:17 AM