The Oklahoma City Thunder are much better off when All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook records a triple-double - something he is doing with greater frequency this season than all but one player in NBA history. Westbrook will try to notch his third straight triple-double and lead the Thunder to a third consecutive win when they visit the Brooklyn Nets on Tuesday.
Westbrook passed Wilt Chamberlain for second place on the single-season list with his 32nd triple-double in Saturday’s 112-104 win over the Utah Jazz and trails only Oscar Robertson’s 41 in 1961-62. “Dude’s a beast,” Oklahoma City guard Andre Roberson told ESPN.com of Westbrook. “He’s a freak of nature. I don’t think anything’s impossible for Russ, to be honest with you. If he puts his mind to it, he’s going to go out there and get it done. He’s just all about winning, and if triple-doubles come along with it, so be it. That’s what I like about him.” The Nets are winners of three of their last seven games, which matches their best seven-game stretch of the season and comes on the heels of a 16-game losing streak. They notched their first home win since Dec. 26 with a 120-112 triumph over the New York Knicks on Sunday and will be trying to record their first back-to-back wins of the campaign on Tuesday.
TV: 7:30 p.m. ET, FSN Oklahoma, YES (Brooklyn)
ABOUT THE THUNDER (37-29): Oklahoma City is 26-6 when Westbrook notches a triple-double and 11-23 when he doesn’t this season, and he is on pace to join Robertson as the only players to average a triple-double over a full season. Westbrook’s efforts have the Thunder in sixth place in the Western Conference but still within shouting distance of the Utah Jazz and Los Angeles Clippers in the two spots ahead. “Certainly, it’s been a huge focus and a lot of attention has been given to it, and rightfully so,” Thunder coach Billy Donovan told reporters of Westbrook’s triple-double watch. “You’re talking about Oscar Robertson and Wilt Chamberlain, two of the greatest to ever play the game. They’re impactful in the game, and I think when Russell is done with the game - when that time is - he’s a guy you’re going to look at and say what he’s done throughout his career is historic.”
ABOUT THE NETS (12-53): One of the things Kenny Atkinson is trying to do in his first season as head coach in Brooklyn is get every player on the floor comfortable playing with pace and shooting from the outside, including his centers. Brook Lopez, who starts at center and leads the team in scoring (20.4 points) already attempted far more 3-pointers this season than he had in the first eight seasons of his career combined, and he looked plenty comfortable from distance while knocking down 6-of-9 from beyond the arc in Sunday’s triumph. Lopez was one of seven Nets to score in double figures on Sunday as point guards Jeremy Lin and Spencer Dinwiddie combined for 11 assists.
1. Lin is averaging 16.6 points in the last five games despite playing 27 or fewer minutes in each of those contests.
2. Oklahoma City SG Victor Oladipo is averaging 19.3 points on 55.3 percent shooting in three games since returning from a back injury.
3. Westbrook collected 30 points, 13 assists and 10 rebounds in a 124-105 home win over Brooklyn on Nov. 18.
PREDICTION: Thunder 115, Nets 103