Happy Anniversary to Russell Westbrook's Iconic 50-Point Triple-Double
Russell Westbrook has dazzled fans with a collection of memorable games in his 12 NBA seasons, including a fair share of thrilling efforts with the Rockets in 2019-20. But perhaps no Westbrook performance is as celebrated as his 50-point game game the Nuggets on April 9, 2017.
Let's set the stakes. Oklahoma City was locked into the No. 6 seed in the Western Conference with just three regular-season games remaining, set to face the Rockets in the first round of the playoffs. But while the games were immaterial to the Thunder's seeding, the contest in Denver marked a critical opportunity for Westbrook. He entered the evening with 41 triple-doubles on the season, tied with Oscar Robertson for the most in basketball history. With three games left in the season, Westbrook was chasing one of the league's long-standing records.
Not only did Westbrook break Robertson's single-season record, he did so in dominant fashion. He tallied his 10th assist of the game with 4:16 to play to cut Denver's lead to 10, and with the triple-double secured, Westbrook quickly took over.
Westbrook scored the last 15 Thunder points in under four minutes, including a layup to cut the deficit to two with 27 seconds remaining. After a defensive stop and Westbrook rebound, timeout was called with two seconds remaining. With the game on the line, Westbrook came up clutch with one of the greatest shots in regular-season history.
Westbrook's iconic triple is unlikely to be a celebrated date for Rockets' fans. The shot helped carry Westbrook past James Harden for the 2016-17 MVP, a decision derided by some in hindsight.
Houston subsequently eliminated the Thunder in the first round of the 2017 playoffs, though the Rockets' run ended in the next series against San Antonio. Now Westbrook and Harden are together, with both eyeing a return from the NBA's coronavirus suspension.