May 8, 2021
Ohm YoungmisukESPN Staff Writer
- Ohm Youngmisuk has covered the Giants, Jets and the NFL since 2006. Prior to that, he covered the Nets, Knicks and the NBA for nearly a decade. He joined ESPNNewYork.com after working at the New York Daily News for almost 12 years and is a graduate of Michigan State University.
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Russell Westbrook made history tying Oscar Robertson for most career triple-doubles and then he personally made sure the Washington Wizards beat the Indiana Pacers to move into ninth place in the Eastern Conference.
Westbrook matched the Hall of Fame point guard with his 181st triple-double with 1:39 remaining in the third quarter. But then Westbrook made sure the Wizards won this critical game, burying two free throws to give Washington the lead with a second left in overtime before sealing a 133-132 overtime win over the Pacers with an incredible block on a Caris LeVert 3-point attempt at the buzzer at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Westbrook finished with 33 points, 19 rebounds, 15 assists and two blocks.
“I’m so grateful, thankful and blessed,” said Westbrook, who can set the triple-doubles career record as early as Monday when the Wizards play in Atlanta. “I take a lot of pride in doing everything to impact winning as much as I can and leave it on the floor.
“To be in the conversation with Oscar, for one, I want to thank him because he set the stage and sacrificed a lot of things for us to be able to go out and play. The times he played in and the things he was able to do back in the day has allowed me to be able to do the things I want to do today. I am just grateful for him, his words and appreciative of his support as well.”
Robertson has owned the triple-doubles record since 1961-62, the same season that he became the first player to average a triple-double.
“[Eventually] breaking Oscar’s record is unbelievable,” Washington head coach Scott Brooks said. “There are certain players in the league history that they are just on a pedestal, you just don’t think that they are even real. Until you meet them, you just think they are some mythical character. Oscar Robertson is one of the greatest players to ever play the game and he is arguably one of the top 10 players.”
Westbrook didn’t just make history, though. He helped the Wizards (32-36) take possession of ninth over Indiana (31-36), beating the team that they could face in the potential play-in for the second time in a week. And he did so with Bradley Beal on the sideline for the final 21 seconds of regulation and entire overtime. Beal scored 50 points before leaving with a left hamstring strain.
“We were part of Russ’ historical night tonight,” Beal said. “That kind of takes the cake on everything. From the history of the game to the evolution of the game to where we are now, Russ is one of the best players to ever pick up a basketball.”
Westbrook has been on an absolute tear in his first season as a Wizard, registering his 35th triple-double this season. He had 14 in the month of April alone, the most in NBA history.
Westbrook, 32, already owns the distinction of having the most triple-doubles in a season with 42 back in 2016-17. The point guard has a triple-double in 21 of his last 25 games and has already clinched averaging a triple-double in the season for the fourth time in his career.
“To do that on a nightly basis, it is very tough to do,” Beal said. “I think people kind of [give him] side-eye… or whatever the case may be. But you try going out there doing it every single night… And this is Russ’ fourth time [averaging a triple-double]? That just speaks volumes.”
Westbrook credited his father and mother with instilling work ethic, consistency and drive in him. And he also said that he tapped the minds of Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant about having a routine once he was in the league.
“You got to want it more than the other player,” Westbrook said of his mentality when asked about his rebounding. “You can kind of go through the motions and kind of let the game take control of you or you can take control of the game. I always try to find ways to impact and help us and do anything I can to help us win.”
He earned his fourth consecutive triple-double when he dished his 10th assist to Beal near the end of the third quarter. In overtime, Westbrook scored six of his team’s nine points and assisted Davis Bertans on the Wizards’ only other basket in the extra frame. He had two key rebounds and then the game-clinching block.
“I want to make sure I leave everything I have on the floor,” Westbrook said. “And when I am all said and done, I can look back and nobody can ever say that I didn’t compete at the highest level or cheated the game. I can go out and compete every night and that is all I can do each and every day.”