Russell Westbrook edges James Harden to capture first scoring title
Westbrook edged out Rockets guard James Harden to finish as the NBA's leading scorer for the 2014-15 season, marking the first scoring title of his career. Westbrook poured in 37 points in the Thunder's 138-113 season finale win against the Timberwolves on Wednesday to finish the season averaging 28.1 points per game. The three-time All-Star guard totaled 1,886 points in 67 games.
Harden posted 16 points in the Rockets' 117-97 victory over the Jazz on Wednesday to finish with an average of 27.4. Houston's three-time All-Star scored a league-leading 2,217 points in 81 appearances.
The former Oklahoma City teammates were separated in the scoring race by a tiny fraction of a point over the last few weeks. Ultimately, the 0.78 spread between their two averages fell short of making history for the tightest scoring race. George Gervin beat out David Thompson by just 0.07 points per game in 1978 to set the mark.
[daily_cut.NBA]The bad news for Westbrook? The Thunder were officially eliminated from the 2015 playoffs on the final day of the season by virtue of the Pelicans beating the Spurs to claim the West's No. 8 seed. Oklahoma City and New Orleans finished with identical 45-37 records, but New Orleans advanced because it held a 3-1 season series lead. The Thunder went 3-5 in April to fall out of the eighth seed and miss the playoffs for the first time since 2008-09.
"I never really thought I'd be winning anything close to a scoring title," Westbrook said before Wednesday night's game, according to ESPN.com. "But I'd rather be in the playoffs than win the scoring title, to tell you the truth."
The Oklahoman reported after the game that Westbrook wasn't exactly head over heels about his accomplished. Asked what the title meant to him, Westbrook replied: "S---."
With reigning MVP Kevin Durant sidelined by three foot surgeries this season, Westbrook emerged as Oklahoma City's No. 1 option, surpassing his previous career-high of 23.6 points per game, set in 2011-12. Entering Wednesday's action, Westbrook was averaging 22 field goal attempts per game and was leading the league with a 38.4 usage rate.
Durant was the NBA's scoring champion in 2009-10, 2010-11, 2011-12 and 2013-14. The last time players from the same team won back-to-back scoring titles was Paul Arizin (1951-52) and Neil Johnston (1952-53) of the Philadelphia Warriors.
Westbrook repeatedly torched boxscores this season, registering a league-leading 11 triple doubles this season, topping 40 points nine times, and posting a career-high 54 points in a loss to the Pacers earlier this week.