By Tim MacMahon ESPN Staff Writer
Westbrook’s 42nd triple-double of the season was a 50-point, 16-rebound, 10-assist performance Sunday that concluded with his 36-foot buzzer-beater that gave the Thunder a 106-105 victory over the Denver Nuggets. The loss eliminated Denver from playoff contention.
Robertson recorded 41 triple-doubles in 1961-62, when he averaged 30.8 points, 12.5 rebounds and 11.4 assists per game. That made him the only player in NBA history to average a triple-double until Westbrook accomplished the feat this season.
“Very, very blessed. I’ve got to give all the thanks from the man above,” Westbrook said. “He’s blessed me with unbelievable talent to go out and compete at a high level. I’m just thankful for my teammates, for my coaching staff, for the organization, for all the fans, for my family for believing in me and allowing me to do what I’m doing.”
It was Westbrook’s third 50-plus-point triple-double, all of them this season and more than any player in NBA history has in his career. Westbrook has scored at least 40 points in eight triple-doubles this season.
Westbrook had a double-double before halftime, and he finished the first half with 23 points, 12 rebounds and six assists. He recorded his 10th assist by feeding Semaj Christon for a 3-pointer in the right corner with 4 minutes, 17 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, after the crowd had groaned when Thunder players failed to finish on the previous few passes that could have clinched the record for Westbrook.
“It was stressful, but it was going to happen,” Christon said. “We knew it was going to come. When he got close, somebody needed to make a shot. I was open.”
The Pepsi Center crowd immediately responded with a standing ovation. During the next break in play, the Nuggets’ public-address announcer congratulated Westbrook on the record. Westbrook got another standing ovation after the buzzer, as Nuggets fans acknowledged and celebrated his historic season and afternoon.
“I’ve been feeling it for a while,” Westbrook said of the appreciation from fans in road arenas. “Everywhere I’ve been, the crowd’s been kind of like that, which is truly amazing, something I could never dream about growing up in inner-city Los Angeles. Now being on the biggest stage possible is something I could never dream about.”
Westbrook briefly waved to acknowledge the announcement of his record-breaking accomplishment, but with the Thunder trailing by 10 at the time, he was in no mood to savor the moment.
“I had to get the ball and go back and win the game,” Westbrook said.
He made a driving layup seconds later to start an individual scoring spree of the Thunder’s last 15 points in the final 3:35. Westbrook has pulled off similar comebacks in recent road victories over the Dallas Mavericks and Orlando Magic and has consistently dominated in crunch time this season, leading the NBA with 247 clutch points, as defined by when the score is within five points in the final five minutes.
As the crowd roared after Westbrook’s buzzer-beater, he leapt in the air before being mobbed by his celebrating teammates.
“It was pure adrenaline, emotions running high, game-winning shot,” said Westbrook, who will send the game ball and his uniform to his parents. “It’s something you dream about as a little kid to be able to do that on the road, especially from that distance. It’s something that you’ll definitely never forget.”
Westbrook began averaging a triple-double on Nov. 29 against the New York Knicks, and he maintained the averages for the rest of the season. Throughout the season, Westbrook often grew agitated talking about triple-doubles, but as he made history recently, Westbrook has been far more reflective and appreciative.
“You could never say in a million years that I would ever think that was even possible,” Westbrook said Friday after clinching the triple-double average for the season. “For me to do it, it’s a blessing that I’m honored to be able to do in this game today at the highest level. It’s a true blessing. I’m just very thankful to be able to do it.”
Westbrook’s season has been full of history, with him running up two streaks of seven consecutive triple-doubles, second only to Wilt Chamberlain’s streak of nine. He sits fourth all time in career triple-doubles at 79, with only Robertson, Magic Johnson and Jason Kidd having recorded more.
Westbrook is also headed for his second scoring title, as he leads the league with 31.9 points per game. It’s the highest scoring mark of Westbrook’s career, to go with career marks in rebounding (10.7) and assists (10.4), which all make Westbrook a strong MVP candidate.
“I think today was a pretty good argument,” Thunder coach Billy Donovan said. “I’ve seen it every day. I think any coach out there who’s got a player that he’s working with or has been around is going to be for his guy, I understand that. But for me, I really, really believe that he is [the MVP] because of what he’s done between the lines because of what he’s done from a leadership role. Our team, a lot of the roster changed, there’s a lot of young guys, a lot of things that went into our team being in a position to now play in the playoffs. His leadership, his play on the floor has basically, I think, spoken loud and clear.”
Information from ESPN’s Royce Young was used in this report.