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For the second straight game, the Oklahoma City Thunder trailed by double digits midway through the fourth quarter. And for the second straight game, Russell Westbrook deemed that outcome unacceptable, so he changed it, damn near singlehandedly.
When Westbrook checked back into Wednesday’s game after his customary rest to start the fourth quarter, the Orlando Magic led the Thunder 89-79. A minute and a half later, a short hook by Magic center Nikola Vucevic pushed the lead to 14 points at 93-79. And from there, Westbrook once again absolutely took over down the stretch, scoring 19 points in the final 6:01 of the fourth to knock Orlando back on its heels and will the Thunder back into the game.
The last three of those points came after Vucevic missed the back end of a pair of free throws with 13 seconds remaining, keeping Orlando’s lead at 102-99. Westbrook grabbed the ball off the rim, raced into the frontcourt, pulled up from the “R” in Amway Center with Magic guards Terrence Ross and Elfrid Payton right in his face …
… and splashed through a 30-footer with 7.1 seconds left to knot the score at 102.
The Magic couldn’t answer on the other end, turning the ball over with just under one second to go, and a last-ditch heave by Thunder guard Victor Oladipo came up short, sending the game to overtime … where, surprise surprise, Westbrook dominated.
Westbrook assisted on an Oladipo triple 61 seconds into overtime that put Oklahoma City up for good, and then put the Magic away himself. He scored seven points, grabbed four rebounds and dropped two dimes in the five extra minutes, leading the Thunder to a 114-106 overtime win that improved the Thunder to 43-31 on the season and punched their ticket to the postseason. Oklahoma City now sits just a half-game behind the Los Angeles Clippers — who tip off later Wednesday against the Washington Wizards — in the race for the No. 5 seed in the Western Conference.
Two nights after taking a blowtorch to the Dallas Mavericks, Westbrook authored an even more remarkable performance: 57 points on 21-for-40 shooting (6-for-15 from 3-point range, 9-for-11 at the foul line) to go with 13 rebounds, 11 assists and three steals in 42 minutes of blistering work. That is the highest-scoring triple-double in NBA history.
Westbrook now stands alone atop that particular column in the history book, after climbing over a pair of 53-point efforts — one by Wilt Chamberlain on March 18, 1968, and one by Westbrook’s leading competition in this year’s MVP race, James Harden, from New Year’s Eve 2016.
It is also just the 10th 50-point triple-double in NBA history — only Russ and Harden have ever logged multiple such games in the same season, both doing so this year — and it came in an absolutely critical situation, leading the Thunder to the biggest comeback in franchise history:
It was Westbrook’s 38th triple-double of the season, putting him just four behind the 41 that Oscar Robertson notched in the historic 1961-62 campaign that Russ has been chasing all season long. The Thunder are now 31-7 when Westbrook hits his numbers.
Westbrook was so dominant, so overwhelming, so undeniable over the final 11 minutes of game time that even the Magic fans in attendance at Amway Center just had to recognize real:
With all due respect to constituencies in Houston, San Antonio and Cleveland, it’s getting harder and harder to disagree with the chants that came down from the stands in Central Florida.
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