Russell Westbrook pours in career-high 54 points, but faces suspension
With Oklahoma City in a tight race with New Orleans for the West's final playoff spot, Westbrook poured in 54 points against Indiana, adding nine rebounds, eight assists and one steal in 40 minutes of action. He shot 21 for 43 from the field, 5 for 15 on three-pointers and 7 for 11 from the foul line. The Pacers survived Westbrook's one-man assault to claim a 116-104 home victory.
Westbrook surpassed his previous career-high of 49 points, set during a March 4 win over the Sixers. Sunday marked the ninth time this season that Westbrook has topped the 40-point threshold.
Six players this season have scored 50 or more points in a game, with Westbrook's 54 standing as the third-highest point total recorded this season. Westbrook joins Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving (57 and 55), Rockets guard James Harden (51 and 50), Warriors guard Klay Thompson (52) and Stephen Curry (51), and then-Timberwolves guard Mo Williams 52 in this year's 50-plus points club.
Westbrook almost made a little history with his itchy trigger finger. His 43 field goal attempts set a new NBA season-high and are the most since Lakers guard Kobe Bryant took 44 shots to score 48 points against the Sonics on Jan. 14, 2008. Westbrook joins Bryant, Bulls guard Michael Jordan and Kings forward Chris Webber as the only players to attempt 43 or more shots in a regular season game since the start of the 1985-86 season.
Oklahoma City caught a huge break in the standings when Houston defeated New Orleans 121-114 on Sunday. That loss dropped the Pelicans back into a tie with the Thunder, as both teams hold 43-37 records. New Orleans holds the tiebreaker between the two teams.
The worst news of the night came midway through the fourth quarter, when referee Ed Malloy quickly assessed Westbrook a technical foul after he argued a foul call on the perimeter. The technical foul marked Westbrook's 16th of the season, triggering a one-game suspension.
"I got no view on it," Westbrook said afterward, according to The Oklahoman. "He called it, and you have got to move on from it."
The NBA league office will review the technical foul and has the authority to rescind it. If the technical stands as called, Westbrook will miss Oklahoma City's home game against Portland on Monday.
"That's some bulls---," injured Thunder star Kevin Durant wrote on Twitter after Westbrook received the technical.
Clearly, the timing couldn't be any worse given the postseason stakes and the fact that Durant and Serge Ibaka are sidelined with injuries, leaving Westbrook as Oklahoma City's alpha and omega. Westbrook has been playing with a league-leading 15 technical fouls since April 5, and he appeared to be pleading with Malloy to consider the circumstances. There is a precedent for this technical foul to be rescinded, as the NBA has already wiped away one of Westbrook's technicals earlier this season.
"I'm pretty confident that will be rescinded," said Thunder coach Scott Brooks during his postgame comments, according to ESPN.com.
[daily_cut.NBA]Although it will surely be small consolation for Westbrook until he hears from the league office, his scoring outburst does help him in his neck-and-neck race with Harden to become the NBA's scoring champion. Both players entered Sunday's action averaging 27.5 points per game, with Westbrook enjoying a decimal point advantage.
C.J. Miles led the Pacers with 30 points, 10 rebounds and three assists. George Hill added 19 points, seven assists and three rebounds.
Dion Waiters added 16 points and two rebounds for the Thunder.
Indiana improved to 37-43. Oklahoma City fell to 43-37.