He did it again.
That sentence could lead practically any piece about Oklahoma City as the season enters its final stretch: Russell Westbrook did it again.
He went for the 34th triple-double of his season during the Thunder’s 123-102 win in Toronto on Thursday, finishing with 24 points, 10 rebounds and 16 assists. With 14 games remaining this year, he needs only seven more triple-doubles to tie NBA legend Oscar Robertson for the most ever in a single season.
“[The Raptors] are an aggressive team, and they like to trap and stuff,” Westbrook said. “So, my job was to be able to use that to my advantage and take on two people and make sure other guys get open.”
Finding the open man has become a routine for Westbrook of late. He played only 28 minutes and didn’t even play in the fourth quarter with the Thunder leading by 27 through three. He still went for his fifth-highest assist total of the year.
He’s now recorded a triple-double in four straight games. No other player has done that this season. Yet, to find the last time Westbrook put together a streak of four straight, you have to go all the way back to…three weeks ago.
He’s compiled at least 13 assists in each of those games and is averaging 15.5 over the streak. It’s the third time one of his triple-double streaks has reached at least four this season.
“He was a one man wrecking crew,” Raptors coach Dwane Casey said. “He caused a lot of chain reactions, it starts with him.”
Westbrook is now on an exact pace to tie Robertson’s record. In fact, if he’s able to get there, triple-double No. 41 wouldn’t just tie the all-time record. It would also bring him even with Wilt Chamberlain for fourth on the all-time list. Chamberlain totaled 78 triple-doubles in his career. Westbrook is at 71, yet he’s played 390 fewer games.
The Thunder played one of the best games of their season in Toronto. Of course, the team’s fortune and Westbrook’s are directly linked. OKC is now 28-6 when he records a triple-double.
But this performance was one of the Thunder’s freshest, and it gave them a fourth consecutive win, evening out the four-game losing streak that preceded the quartet of victories. They’re nearing the No. 5 seeded L.A. Clippers.
They limited Toronto’s makes away from the rim. Wing stopper Andre Roberson mostly stuck with All-Star DeMar DeRozan, though DeRozan still sank his usual mid-rangers.
They shot 14 of 25 from 3. They spread the wealth. Seven Thunder players scored in double digits. It was another direct effect of Westbrook, who totaled one more dime than the entire Raptors team.
“We were unselfish, made the extra pass,” Thunder coach Billy Donovan said. “So, I thought on both ends of the floor we played well.”
Of course, the assists don’t come if teammates fail to make shots.
Shooting guard Victor Oladipo, especially, has been splashing from everywhere during the recent wins. He went for 23 points against the Raptors, his fourth straight 20-point performance. He sank all three of his 3-point attempts, too, and is now 16 of 22 from range over the last five games.
“I work at it. I work my butt off,” Oladipo said. “I just go out there and shoot with confidence.”
But at this point, even with the Thunder in a position to move either up or down in the Western Conference playoff picture, the main story isn’t about Oladipo or even the team as a whole. It can’t be, not with what’s going on with No. 0.
The 39-29 Thunder are approaching the fifth seed. But Westbrook is approaching history.
Oklahoma City hosts Sacramento at 2 p.m. today inside the Chesapeake Energy Arena.
• Ibaka struggles: Former Thunder power forward Serge Ibaka went for a career-high 31 points and hit a game-winning shot the first time he played OKC this year. Thursday’s game wasn’t so kind to him.
Ibaka played 27 minutes for the Raptors and finished with 10 points on 5 of 11 shooting. He missed all four of his 3-pointers, and the Thunder outscored the Raptors by 27 when he was on the floor.