Oklahoma City star Russell Westbrook broke Oscar Robertson's 55-year-old record with his 42nd triple-double of the NBA season; then he broke the Denver Nuggets with a buzzer-beating three-pointer in a 106-105 Thunder triumph. Westbrook finished the day with 50 points, 16 rebounds and 10 assists. It was yet another remarkable display of the all-around excellence that a triple-double, the achievement of double-digit totals in three of five key statistical categories, has come to represent.
"I'm so thankful to play the game I love every night," Westbrook said, adding that he would give the game ball to his parents. "It's an unbelievable blessing."
He delivered his 10th assist of the game with 4:17 remaining in the fourth quarter. Westbrook had amassed 32 points, 13 rebounds and nine assists through three quarters. Fans in Denver, eager to see history made, cheered every time he passed the ball to a teammate with a possible 10th assist on the cards, standing with cellphone cameras at hand. They thought they could afford to fete Westbrook, with the Nuggets comfortably ahead in a game they had to win to keep their slim playoff hopes alive. After three near-misses, Westbrook found Simaj Christon who drained a three-pointer from the corner.
"I was open ... they probably would've booed if I didn't shoot," Christon said.
Instead there was an ovation, and Westbrook raised his hand in a wave when the public address announcer acknowledged the feat.
"I've been feeling it for a while," he said of the crowd's support. "Everywhere I've been the crowd's been like that. It's been amazing. It's something I could never dream about growing up in inner-city Los Angeles."
But with his 10th assist and the triple-double locked down, Westbrook went to work on the Nuggets' 10-point lead. He scored the Thunder's final 13 points, including his 36-foot game-winner at the death after a timeout was called with 2.9 seconds remaining.
"It's something you dream about as a little kid, to be able to do that on the road, especially from that distance," Westbrook said of his game-winning shot.
"His performance down the stretch was incredible," Thunder coach Billy Donovan said, adding that Westbrook strengthened the argument that he should be the NBA Most Valuable Player honors.
This was Westbrook's third 50-plus-point triple-double of the season, another record, and his eighth with at least 40 points. He had already joined Robertson as the only players in NBA history to average a triple-double over the course of a season.
"My motto was 'Why not?'" said Westbrook, whose 79th career triple-double moved him past Wilt Chamberlain for fourth place on the all-time list. "I always stick by it regardless of what people say is possible or what's not possible. I continue to think 'why not' and continue to strive to be the best I can be."