NBA Stats

Mar 5 2014 6:07PM

Not Just Another Tuesday Night

By Brian Martin

Let's set the scene for Tuesday night at my house.

Television on NBA TV for Heat vs. Rockets, anticipating what LeBron might do to follow up his 61-point career night against one of the hottest teams in the West.

Laptop running League Pass Broadband, going back and forth between Spurs vs. Cavs, Warriors vs. Pacers, Sixers vs. Thunder and Clippers vs. Suns.

iPad open, going back and forth between Twitter and box scores for the above mentioned games.

After seeing this tweet from the Thunder, I checked the box score and was shocked to see that Westbrook had only played six-and-a-half minutes in the quarter. Eight assists in just over six minutes! And he had seven of those assists in under three minutes! Check out this two-and-a-half minute stretch from the first quarter where Westbrook dished out seven assists on seven straight Thunder possessions.

After the opening quarter, Westbrook had zero points -- he missed his only two field goal attempts -- and one rebound to go along with those eight assists.

It was too early for #TripleDoubleWatch messaging, but after checking out his game logs, it definitely looked like his career-high of 16 assists was in danger of being broken considering he was halfway to it after just one quarter. The only question is whether he would play long enough. With the Thunder already up by 14 points at the end of the opening quarter, it was starting to look like it could be an early night for the OKC starters.

Thunder vs. 76ers, Mar. 4, 2014
First Quarter Stats | First Quarter Box Score


As impressive as the assists from Westbrook were, I was more intrigued at this point by the hot start from Durant. Were we in for a huge scoring game from KD to answer LeBron's 61 from Monday?

The second quarter was much more balanced for Westbrook as he scored five points, grabbed six rebounds and dropped three more assists in a nearly identical 6:32 on the floor. His 11 first-half assists broke a team record and his points and rebounds now clearly put him on #TripleDoubleWatch.

Durant didn't cool off much either, scoring nine points in the period to bring his first-half total to 21. He was well on his way to another 30-point game and 40 was in sight as well.

Thunder vs. 76ers, Mar. 4, 2014
Second Quarter Stats | Second Quarter Box Score


Thunder vs. 76ers, Mar. 4, 2014
First Half Stats | First Half Box Score


While Durant was the leading scorer at the half, it was Westbrook that was the star of the show despite only attempting five shots. He was seeing the floor beautifully and setting up his teammates left and right.

OKC outscored Philly by two points in the second quarter, extending its lead to 16. It looked like the only thing that could slow Durant and Westbrook was their own success, as they would likely spend much of the second half on the bench during a blowout win.

We start the third quarter of this game, as well as the close game between the Heat and Rockets (Houston up by one at the half), while we're also coming down the stretch in the other early games (Spurs are rolling and assisting all over the place against the Cavs, while the Warriors and Pacers game has been close all night).

With Heat-Rockets and Warriors-Pacers so close, I'm drawn toward those games on my various screens, but still swapping back to OKC-Philly occasionally to follow Russ and KD.

In the first four minutes of the quarter, Westbrook had a pair of free throws (up to seven points) and another assist (up to 12 dimes). Meanwhile, the Thunder were up 22 and it looked like we were headed to blowout city and plenty of time for the reserves.

Looking to make a run, the Sixers connected on 3-pointers on three consecutive possessions -- with one Westbrook layup in between -- to cut the lead to 15 and force Scott Brooks to call a timeout with 6:43 to play in the quarter.

Coming out of the timeout, Westbrook closed the door on the Sixers. He drew a foul on the opening possession and hit both free throws (up to 11 points, double-double in hand with 6:33 to play in the third). After a Sixers miss, Westbrook scored again on a driving layup. He followed that up with a steal (his third of the night) and assist to Serge Ibaka for a dunk (his 14th assist) with 5:56 left in the quarter.

The triple-double was in sight, but he still needed three more rebounds. No problem. As the team traded missed baskets over the next five possessions, Westbrook grabbed each of Philly's three misses, securing his 10th rebound with 4:55 to play and completing the triple-double. He brought the ball up in transition and found Durant for a running jumper in the key. Durant was fouled, but still hit the shot to give Westbrook his 14th assist and extend lead to 23 with 4:49 to play in the third quarter.

Westbrook's night was over as Brooks subbed in Reggie Jackson and the #TripleDoubleWatch had turned into #TripleDoubleAlert on Twitter.

Westbrook finished the night with 13 points, 10 rebounds and 14 assists in just 20 minutes and 17 seconds on the court. It was the second fastest triple-double in league history -- behind only Jim Tucker, who posted a triple-double in an unbelievable 17 minutes back in 1955.

While Westbrook had the fastest triple-double in 59 years in terms of minutes played, it is not the fastest triple-double in terms of when it occurred in the game (4:55 remaining in the third quarter).

That honor goes to Kevin Johnson, the former Phoenix Suns guard, who is the only player in NBA history to ever record a triple-double in the first half. Johnson had 14 points, 11 rebounds and 14 assists in the first half of Phoenix's 131-100 win over the Boston Celtics on Feb. 12, 1997.

However, Johnson played every minute of the first half and completed the triple-double by securing his 10th rebound with 1:02 left in the second quarter, which put him at 22 minutes and 58 seconds of playing time to reach a triple-double.

Suns vs. Celtics, Feb. 12, 1997
First Half Stats | First Half Box Score


Coincidentally, Johnson celebrated his 48th birthday on the same day that Westbrook had this incredible performance that was reminiscent of the former All-Star and current Mayor of Sacramento.

And let's not forget about the performance that Chicago's Joakim Noah had on Sunday. The All-Star center was firmly on #TripleDoubleWatch at halftime as he had 11 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds against the New York Knicks. He did not secure his 10th rebound, however, until 11:29 remaining the fourth quarter.

But getting back to Tuesday night, with Westbrook on the bench and in the history books, the rest of the third quarter belonged to Durant. He completed the three-point play after Westbrook went to the bench to give him 30 points and KD went on to score another dozen in the final three-and-a-half minutes of the period to finish his night with a game-high 42 points.

Durant equaled his first-half output (21 points) in the third quarter alone to give him his league-leading 10th game with at least 40 points this season.

Thunder vs. 76ers, Mar. 4, 2014
Third Quarter Stats | Third Quarter Box Score


Thunder vs. 76ers, Mar. 4, 2014
Game Stats, after 3 quarters, neither player played in 4th quarter | Game Box Score


With a 98-76 lead after three quarters, the Thunder had the game in hand and kept their stars on the bench for the fourth quarter, which allowed me to shift focus back to the other games, while still shaking my head at Westbrook's stat line.

It's tough to score 42 points in three quarters, while missing just six of 20 shots, chipping in nine rebounds, three assists and two steals and not be the story of the game. But as special as Durant was, Tuesday was Westbrook's night.

Westbrook had 14 assists on just 36 total passes on Tuesday. Compare that to Michael Carter-Williams, who led the Sixers with five assists on 59 total passes. Or how about Reggie Jackson, who had two assists in 39 passes in relief of Westbrook.

Westbrook also had two secondary assists (where he made the pass that led directly to an assist for a teammate) and one free throw assist (where he made the pass to a teammate that was fouled on a shot attempt, missed the shot, but made at least one free throw). Nearly half of his total passes resulted in Thunder points.

Another impressive SportVU stat for Westbrook is that he only had 11 rebound chances (being within 3.5 feet of the rebound) on Tuesday and managed to grab 10 of them. To compare, Durant had nine rebounds on 13 chances and Serge Ibaka had four rebounds on nine chances.

Not your average game. Not your average player. Not your average Tuesday night.