Russell Westbrook is trapped in a Catch-22. He’s had one of the greatest individual seasons in NBA history and is the overwhelming favorite to win the 2017 league MVP, but his team is not championship caliber. Therefore, there’s a large contingent of anti-Westbrook purists out there who downplay his magnificence because his team is saucy.
It seems unfair, but Carmelo Anthony never got a pass for not making average players better, so Westbrook takes his share of criticism concerning shot selection, ball-hogging and late-game savvy.
Melo also never was a record-breaking, one-man band like Westbrook. His 51 points, 13 assists and 10 rebounds in a Game 2, 115-111 playoff loss to the Houston Rockets on Tuesday were the most points ever scored in a playoff triple-double.
It will also go down as one of the most meaningless triple-doubles ever.
There’s a ton of stats to magnify how incredible the feat is from an individual standpoint. It was, in fact, just the sixth time in NBA history that a triple-double was achieved when anyone had scored more than 40 points.
Statistical stature is the essence of our ultimate determination of a player’s greatness. However, the elevation to immortal status is driven by championships and team performance. Being clutch is a term that is often used but has no tangible standard.
But what we can assume is that shooting 4-for-18 in the fourth quarter doesn’t do anything to elevate Westbrook’s already supreme status. He knows it and so do his fans. The triple double stats embody every burden he has had to carry as an unstoppable force for the OKC Thunder, but the losses also tell a story.
When it was over, Westbrook and the Thunder closed the evening in a 2-0 hole in their first round series.
It’s a shame because Westbrook gave another passionate and self-imposing performance, but mind-boggling stat lines that result in playoff losses are soon forgotten.
“I don’t give a (bleep) about the (stat) line,” Westbrook said to reporters after the game. “We lost.”
And that’s really the bottom line at this point in the NBA season.