With Second 20-20-20 NBA Game Ever, Westbrook Sparking OKC
Russell Westbrook has put up some ridiculous statlines in his NBA career, but perhaps none wilder than what he did Tuesday night.
In the Oklahoma City Thunder’s 119-103 victory over the LeBron-less Los Angeles Lakers, Westbrook had 20 points, 20 rebounds and 21 assists. He became the second player ever to go for 20-20-20, joining Wilt Chamberlain, who had 22 points, 25 rebounds and 21 assists against the Pistons on Feb. 2, 1968.
Westbrook said after the game that he dedicated his performance to Nipsey Hussle, the L.A. native rapper who was murdered March 31. Westbrook was seen shouting “that was for Nipsey!” after securing his 20th rebound of the night in the final seconds.
YOU’RE ONE OF ONE BRO!!! Rest Up King ???? pic.twitter.com/fXzJesHlaB— Russell Westbrook (@russwest44) April 1, 2019
That performance came in the midst of a historic season that will continue to put Westbrook in a category by himself. He needs three assists in his last four games to secure a third straight season averaging a triple-double. The only other player in NBA history to average a triple-double was Oscar Robertson, and he did it once.
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Westbrook’s night leads to important win
Dedications and history aside, Tuesday’s win was important for the Thunder. Oklahoma City had lost seven of nine games coming in and 13 of 20 since the All-Star break. That dropped them all the way to the No. 8 seed in the West, a perilous place where a likely first-round date with the Golden State Warriors awaits.
With four games remaining they’re locked in a tie with the San Antonio Spurs. Barring collapses from the No. 5 Jazz or No. 6 Clippers, OKC and the Spurs will battle it out for the No. 7 seed in the season’s final week. The Spurs hold the tiebreaker.
The Spurs only play one team with a winning record (Denver) while the Thunder close with Detroit, Minnesota, Houston and Milwaukee. The top-seeded Bucks will rest players on the season’s final day, but OKC’s remaining schedule is still decidedly more difficult.
The Thunder went 0-4 against the Nuggets and 1-2 against the Warriors, so maybe the No. 8 seed wouldn’t be the worst spot. And if Westbrook records these kinds of numbers, maybe an upset is in the making for those seeking NBA betting value. It’s unlikely, but so was anyone matching Wilt’s 20-20-20 performance.
If Tuesday was the preview, expect Westbrook and the Thunder to turn it on in the final week. After failing to cover in four straight games in mid-March they’ve gone a respectable 3-3 against the spread since.
At the very least we expect Westbrook to be an excellent prop play; including Tuesday, he’s averaging an absurd 23.6 points, 11.3 rebounds and 11.3 assists over his past seven games.
George strengthens DPoY candidacy
Westbrook rightfully overshadowed yet another dominant defensive performance from Paul George. The frontrunner for Defensive Player of the Year, at -162 at top bookmakers, swiped five steals and blocked a shot to offset a quiet scoring night (19 points) for him.
George boosted his league-leading steals per game to 2.2 and he continues not to only force turnovers but also slow opposing offenses, averaging an NBA-best 3.7 deflections per game.
Despite the Thunder’s struggles they still have the No. 4 defense in the NBA. That matters, as 15 of the past 16 Defensive Player of the Year winners played on top-5 defenses.
Both Utah’s Rudy Gobert (+175 for DPoY), who won the award last season, and Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo (+400) have legitimate cases.
But this feels like George’s award to lose. He has filled in admirably on the wing for the injured Andre Roberson, who was All-NBA Defensive Second Team last season, and Oklahoma City hasn’t skipped a beat.
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About the Author
Mark Strotman is a veteran sports journalist who has covered the Chicago Bulls and the NBA for NBC Sports Chicago since 2012. His work has also appeared on ESPN.com, FoxSports.com, The Chicago Tribune, Yahoo Sports and NBC Sports. He covered the NBA Playoffs in 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2017 as well as Team USA Basketball in 2014 and 2016. He has also covered high school football and was nominated for a Midwest Emmy in 2016 for his work on a documentary featuring local Chicago product and NFL prospect Miles Boykin. Strotman graduated from Marquette University in 2012 and during his time there reported on the men’s basketball team, covering both the Big East Tournament and NCAA Tournament in 2011 and 2012.