Russell Westbrook needed one more assist for another triple-double in his ruthless campaign across the N.B.A., so he drove the lane and tried to thread a pass to Joffrey Lauvergne, his teammate with the Oklahoma City Thunder. Instead, the ball bobbled loose for a turnover, and time soon ran out — on the first half.
Westbrook’s greatest achievement this season might be the way he has turned the extraordinary into the mundane. It happened again in that game at Madison Square Garden on Monday night. Drama no longer comes in the form of whether he can assemble another triple-double — reaching double digits in three statistical categories — but whether he can pull off the feat in a single half.
His gaudy numbers hardly register with teammates anymore. It is just his way of doing business.
“Outside of you guys talking about it, nobody talks about it,” said Coach Billy Donovan, who detailed the countless other postgame topics of conversation that take precedence, including potential areas of improvement and Oklahoma City’s next opponent.
During the Thunder’s 112-103 victory over the Knicks, Westbrook checked the necessary boxes for his third straight triple-double — and his eighth of the season — when he connected with Victor Oladipo for a layup 79 seconds into the third quarter. But he kept going, of course, shedding and demoralizing defenders on the way to 27 points, 18 rebounds and 14 assists
Nineteen games into his season, Westbrook, 28, is averaging 30.9 points, 11.3 assists and 10.4 rebounds. He has 45 career triple-doubles, which ties him with LeBron James for sixth on the career list, behind other luminaries like Oscar Robertson (181), Magic Johnson (138) and Jason Kidd (107), according to Basketball Reference.
Donovan said he thought that Westbrook, a 6-foot-3 point guard, could become the first player since Robertson to average a triple-double for an entire season.
Westbrook said he had met Robertson, who averaged 30.8 points, 12.5 rebounds and 11.4 assists per game for the Cincinnati Royals in 1961-62.
“I’m pretty sure he was a tough one to guard,” Westbrook said.
Consider, though, that Robertson played in a more up-tempo era, with his team averaging 126.2 possessions a game. He had far more opportunities to clutter the box score than Westbrook does with the Thunder, who, by comparison, average a pedestrian 98.7 possessions a game.
In any case, some of Westbrook’s production this season must be seen as a function of Kevin Durant’s absence. With Durant now plying his trade for the Golden State Warriors, the Thunder funnel everything through Westbrook. But while he is attempting more field goals than ever — 23.7 a game — he is also averaging career highs in assists and rebounds.
“He’s going to put up numbers because of his ability and because of how hard he plays and his gifts,” Donovan said. “But he’s doing a lot of the things that the stat sheet doesn’t measure. I know everybody is focused on that, and rightfully so. It’s historic what he’s doing. But there’s also another side to it, too — that he’s a pretty complete point guard.”
Donovan cited the extra work that Westbrook had been doing with teammates — in quiet moments at practice, on the bench during games.
None of this is to suggest that anyone on the Thunder, who improved their record to 11-8 on Monday night, is oblivious to the season that Westbrook is constructing.
Donovan, for one, described Westbrook’s triple-doubles as “remarkable” and “amazing.” But they are all merely the result of his full-throttle approach to the game. As trite as it sounds, the numbers appear to be an afterthought.
“I don’t really care, honestly,” Westbrook said. “I like to win and compete at a high level. I do the same thing every year.”
Source : https://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/29/sports/russell-westbrook-nba-triple-double-oklahoma-city-thunder.html?_r=0