Russell Westbrook posted one of the fastest triple-doubles in NBA history Tuesday night, with 13 points, 14 assists and 10 rebounds in 20 minutes as the Oklahoma City Thunder overwhelmed the moribund Philadelphia 76ers 125-92.
It’s the fastest triple-double in the NBA in almost 60 years, since Jim Tucker of the Syracuse Nationals put up a triple-double in 17 minutes in 1955.
Since 1985-86, only Fat Lever of the Denver Nuggets came close to what Westbrook did in eviscerating the Sixers Tuesday night. Lever had an 11-10-10 triple-double against the Los Angeles Clippers in November 1987 in just 25 minutes. Much like Tuesday night, that 1987 game was also a blowout; Denver won 139-93.
After never missing a game in his first five NBA seasons, it’s been a tough road for Westbrook since a torn meniscus sustained in Game 2 of last year’s Western Conference first round against the Houston Rockets.
He missed the beginning of the season, but returned much earlier than expected when he came back on Nov. 3 in just the Thunder’s third game of the campaign. But he reaggravated the injury in a Christmas Day win at New York and missed almost two months before returning on Feb. 20.
In six games since he returned, he’s averaging 18.8 points, seven assists, 4.5 rebounds and two steals in 25.6 minutes, shooting 48 percent overall and 50 percent from 3-point range.
Toss out the first two games after his return, when he shot a combined 7-for-25, and those numbers improve to 21 points and 8.5 assists on 58 percent shooting (56.3 percent from deep).
While his raw numbers are down from last year across the board, he’s also playing more than three fewer minutes per game. His per-36 minutes numbers, however, are almost eerily similar:
The concern some analysts have had is the deleterious effect on Kevin Durant’s play. The Thunder lost the first three games after Westbrook returned, but they’ve recovered to win three straight. In those six games, Durant is averaging 34.2 points, seven rebounds and 5.8 assists against season averages of 31.7, 7.7 and 5.5, so it’s hard to see any discernible dropoff in production.
With a couple of the supporting pieces for the Thunder out for a significant period of time—Kendrick Perkins is out until at least early April with a groin strain and Thabo Sefolosha may miss the rest of the regular season with a strained calf—it’s more important than ever that Durant and Westbrook do what they’ve done for the last six years in Oklahoma City.
After some initial hiccups after Westbrook returned, it seems the Thunder are back on track.