Westbrook joins elite crowd; Thunder wins in OT

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Russell Westbrook makes a move toward the basket in a game earlier this season. Westbrook tallied 49 points, grabbed 16 rebounds and dished out 10 assists Tuesday night.
Dion Waiters dribbles inside the paint during a recent game. Waiters finished with 20 points and 10 rebounds in the Thunder's overtime win Tuesday.
.D.J. Augustin (14) scored 17 points and grabbed four rebounds during Oklahoma City's dramatic OT win.

By Tim Farley

While outside temperatures were below freezing and frigid Tuesday night, Russell Westbrook was on fire inside the Chesapeake Energy Arena with a fourth consecutive triple-double and a rare performance equaled by only four other NBA players ever.

Westbrook’s 49 points, 16 rebounds and 10 assists paced the Oklahoma City Thunder (34-27) to a closer-than-expected 123-118 overtime win against the Philadelphia 76ers (13-48). The win kept the Thunder in the eighth playoff spot in the Western Conference, a full game ahead of New Orleans and 2 ½ games ahead of Phoenix.

Oklahoma City trails San Antonio for the seventh spot by 3 ½ games.

Westbrook joins a small, but elite club of players who have scored 45 points, grabbed 15 rebounds and dished out 10 assists in one game. He is just the fifth player over the last 47 years to accomplish that feat, joining NBA legends Vince Carter, Alvin Adams, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Wilt Chamberlain.

Westbrook also became the first player since Michael Jordan in 1989 to post at least four consecutive triple-doubles, according to STATS. Westbrook is also the first player since Jordan that same year to post back-to-back triple-doubles with at least 40 points.

It was Westbrook’s sixth triple-double of the season and 14th of his career.

Even more unusual is the fact that Westbrook wore a mask and headband after having a bone in his right cheek fractured last Friday against Portland. He had surgery Saturday and missed Sunday’s game against the Los Angeles Lakers.

The fiery point guard started the game fast with 16 points, six rebounds and three assists in the first quarter. By halftime, Westbrook had 21 points, eight rebounds and four assists.

“For those of you, including myself, that thought Russell might need a couple of games to get used to wearing a mask, we were wrong,” Thunder head coach Scott Brooks said. “He was all over the floor, another triple-double.”

In the second half, Westbrook added 18 more points, had six boards and five assists. But he may have saved his best for the overtime period, scoring 10 points in five minutes to lead the Thunder to its second consecutive win and 10th victory in the last 12 games.

The Oklahoma City crowd on several occasions chanted “MVP” when Westbrook went to the free throw line. Westbrook’s name has been mentioned as a candidate for the league’s MVP honor.

“The fans are great,” Westbrook said. “Like I’ve said many times we have the best fans in the world in all of sports. They do a great job of coming out and cheering us on even tonight with the weather being bad.”

Oklahoma City needed two comebacks – one in the first half and another in the second half – to notch the win. But it wouldn’t have happened without the solid play of the second unit which scored 62 points. Dion Waiters tallied 20 with backup point guard D.J. Augustin scoring 17 and Anthony Morrow with 11. Westbrook was the only starter who scored in double figures.

“I thought the game changed with our bench,” Brooks said. “Our starters did not have their best stuff tonight and that is going to happen from time to time. That is why you need a good bench to come in and give a spark and I thought they did that twice.”

Midway through the first quarter, the 76ers held a 32-17 lead after hitting five three-point attempts to start the game. However, the second unit sparked Oklahoma City’s 20-2 scoring spurt that lifted the Thunder to a 37-34 lead after the first quarter. Morrow hit three treys during that stretch and Westbrook added another three-point shot.

However, Oklahoma City cooled off a bit in the second quarter with the 76ers holding a 59-56 halftime edge.

Philly didn’t back off to start the second half, either. The 76ers continued its three-point assault with four treys to start the third quarter, eventually taking an 82-66 lead. The 76ers maintained its double-digit lead until late in the quarter when Waiters and Westbrook combined for 16 points, cutting the Philly lead to 90-84 heading into the final quarter.

Oklahoma City went to work in the final 12 minutes outscoring the 76ers 16-6 midway through the quarter to take a 100-94 lead. Oklahoma City maintained its lead until Jason Richardson hit a 25-foot jumper with 5.9 seconds left, sending the game into overtime.

The Thunder scored the first seven points in OT and never trailed after that. The 76ers pulled to within 120-118 but Westbrook hit three of four free throws in the final 26 second to seal the win.

Philly was led in scoring by Isaiah Canaan with 21 points followed by Richardson with 29.

The Thunder plays at Chicago Thursday night before returning to Oklahoma City for a four-game home stand against Toronto on March 8, Los Angeles Clippers on March 11, Minnesota on March 13 and Chicago on March 15.

GAME NOTES: Although labeled a sellout, several seats were empty Tuesday night due to the inclement weather. Still, the Oklahoma City crowd was, as usual, raucous….As a team, Oklahoma City shot 45 percent from the field while the 76ers shot 35.4 percent….Philly hit 15 of 35 shots from behind the arc while OKC connected on seven of 21 attempts….Philadelphia also won the rebounding battle, 58-54, including 16 offensive boards….Oklahoma City outscored the 76ers in the paint, 48-30, and notched more fast break points, 37-19.

 

 

 

 

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