Russell Westbrook returned to action with a vengeance setting career highs. Westbrook scored 49 points and 16 rebounds, and added 10 assists for his fourth consecutive triple-double, helping the Oklahoma City Thunder defeat the Philadelphia 76ers 123-118 in overtime Wednesday night.
Westbrook wore the facial protection after having a bone in his right cheek fractured Friday against Portland. He had surgery Saturday and missed Sunday’s game against the Los Angeles Lakers.
He returned to the lineup in style. Westbrook became the first player since Michael Jordan in 1989 to have four consecutive triple-doubles, according to STATS, and the first since Jordan that year to have back-to-back triple-doubles with at least 40 points. It was the most points by any player with a triple-double since Larry Bird also scored 49 in 1992.
Jordan had seven straight triple-doubles and 10 in an 11-game span in 1989 for Chicago.
“It’s definitely a blessing,” Westbrook said, “but more importantly, I think it’s important that we’re winning.”
He said the mask was little more than a nuisance.
“It was OK,” he said. “It was weird. Had to keep wiping it. It was a total big process of trying to keep everything from fogging up. That’s not going to stop me. My job is to come out and trying to lead my team.”
It was Westbrook’s sixth triple-double of the season and 14th of his career.
Russell Westbrook joins Vince Carter, Alvan Adams and Wilt Chamberlain as those to score at least 45 points, 15 rebounds and 10 assists.
“It’s amazing watching him play,” 76ers guard Jason Richardson said. “You’ve got to take your hats off to this guy. He takes no plays off. He plays hard on both ends of the court. He rebounds. It’s amazing to see a guy who has that much passion about winning.”
Westbrook clinched the triple-double on a pass to D.J. Augustin for a 3-pointer that put the Thunder ahead 113-110 in overtime. Westbrook’s pull-up jumper with 38.9 seconds to play put the Thunder up by three, then Westbrook made the first of two free throws with 30.3 seconds left to make it 120-116.
Westbrook made back-to-back baskets to push the lead to 108-99, the second with the crowd on its feet. Philadelphia called timeout, and the crowd broke into its loudest MVP chant yet for Westbrook.
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) March 5, 2015
“For those of you, including myself, that thought Russell might need a couple of games to get used to wearing a mask, we were wrong,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. “He was all over the floor.”