- Alonzo Adams/AP
Russell Westbrook is getting closer and closer each day to accomplishing the unbelievable – averaging a triple-double while leading the league in scoring.
Westbrook is already firmly in the MVP conversation, but such a statistical accomplishment would make it hard for voters to lean toward another player.
On Tuesday, Westbrook again made another convincing case for his argument as the league’s most valuable player, exploding for 43 points, 11 rebounds, and 10 assists to help the Oklahoma City Thunder beat the fourth-place Utah Jazz, 109-106.
One play in particular captured Westbrook’s relentless drive this season and his hell-bent heroics. After the Thunder blew a 13-point fourth-quarter lead, Westbrook had to save the day.
With 40 seconds remaining and the Thunder trailing by four, Westbrook hit a pull-up three to bring the Thunder within one. On the following play, Jazz forward Gordon Hayward missed a three-pointer, and Westbrook skied for the rebound, collected the ball, turned on the gas, and went coast-to-coast, hitting a driving floater while drawing a foul to give the Thunder the lead.
This is Westbrook’s relentlessness, defined. Despite having played 38 minutes to that point, Westbrook still had the energy to do it all for the Thunder – rebound the ball, take it end-to-end, take the contact, finish the basket, hit the free throw, seal the win.
“I just try to put myself in a position of, ‘Don’t panic, [you’ve] been there before,'” Westbrook said after the game (via ESPN’s Royce Young). “As a leader [my] job is to make sure my team is calm as well, and that’s what I try to do, is make sure everybody is level-headed and make sure we concentrate on executing down the stretch.”
It was the 30th triple-double of the season for Westbrook, placing him within one of Wilt Chamberlain for second most ever in a season. Westbrooks needs 11 more in the final 22 games to tie Oscar Robertson’s all-time record.
Westbrook is a one-man show. Although he got help from his teammates on Tuesday, down the stretch, it was Westbrook who had to carry them home. It’s hard to argue that there’s a single player in the league who means more to his team.