HOUSTON – On Sunday night, Russell Westbrook finished just three assists shy of opening the postseason with yet another triple double. The expected MVP finished with 22 points (6-23), eleven rebounds, and seven assists [with a -25 in the box score, and nine turnovers], denied of the feat by his cold-shooting Thunder teammates.
Mr. Westbrook’s counterpart, Patrick Beverley, finished the game with 18 points (8/13 shooting), ten rebounds, and three assists. Westbrook’s counterpart in the MVP race, James Harden, ended with 37 points, 9 assists, and 7 rebounds.
At the half, Westbrook was on pace to achieve the triple double, as he already had accumulated six rebounds and five assists. By the end of the third, the result still seemed likely, as Westbrook added on four monstrous rebounds (bringing him to ten), and two more assists. But in the fourth quarter, with his Thunder teammates going cold, Westbrook was unable to add to the assist total in the five minutes he played. Had he stayed in for the full twelve minutes, perhaps it might have made the difference.
Lifting his Thunder team to the Western Conference’s sixth seed, Westbrook had the greatest individual season in NBA history, breaking Oscar Robertson’s triple double record, and finishing the season as the first player since Robertson in 1961-1962 to average a triple-double for the season. It was a feat widely heralded as one most observers believed they’d never live to see and one which essentially clinches the MVP award for the Thunder guard. Many believe that if Westbrook is able to duplicate the effort in the postseason, it would mean a de facto championship for Oklahoma City.
Entering Wednesday’s Game 2 matchup, Westbrook needs just 13 assists to get back on pace to his season’s triple double averages. The Houston Rockets won game one 118 to 87.