OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Russell Westbrook got an MVP endorsement from Oscar Robertson before the game The Thunder guard only played the first half of Oklahoma City’s 111-105 loss to Denver on Wednesday night.
Westbrook broke Robertson’s single-season record for triple-doubles by getting his 42nd on Sunday against Denver. Robertson endorsed Westbrook for the Most Valuable Player award during a pregame ceremony on Wednesday.
He was on pace for another triple-double at halftime with eight assists, five points and five rebounds in 18 minutes before coach Billy Donovan decided to rest him for the second half.
Nikola Jokic finished with 29 points, 16 rebounds and eight assists for the Nuggets, who beat the Thunder for the first time in four tries this season.
Jerami Grant and Taj Gibson each scored 13 points for the Thunder, who will play the Houston Rockets in the playoffs.
Robertson attended the game as part of the Thunder’s effort to honor Westbrook for his record-setting season. Robertson congratulated Westbrook, and at the end of his short speech, he got the crowd fired up.
“I only have one more thing to say: M-V-P!!” Robertson said, triggering a loud ovation.
Robertson said Thunder fans should be proud of Westbrook, the first player since Robertson in 1961-62 to average a triple-double for a season.
“When Russell was on this journey, I felt that I just had to be here,” Robertson told the crowd. “What he has done has been historic in nature. He’s played with passion and pride and ability. It’s is just outstanding what he has done and the way he did it.”
Nuggets: F Danilo Gallinari (rest), F Will Barton (left foot soreness), F Kenneth Faried (lower back), G Gary Harris (knee), G Jameer Nelson (right calf strain) and F Wilson Chandler (coach’s decision) did not play.
Thunder: Westbrook went 1 for 7 in the first quarter, but the Thunder still led 26-25. … G Alex Abrines broke James Harden’s Oklahoma City rookie record for 3-pointers in a season. … F Andre Roberson (rest) and F Doug McDermott (knee) sat out. Donovan said McDermott could have played if needed.
Westbrook averaged better than 30 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists this season. The last player to average 30 points and 10 rebounds was Karl Malone in 1989-90. The last to average 30 points and 10 assists was Nate Archibald in 1972-73.
Tiandre Nichols, a 25-year-old from Tulsa, Oklahoma, hit a halfcourt shot during a MidFirst Bank promotion and won $20,000. The team said it was the first game Nichols attended this season, and he brought his girlfriend to her first-ever Thunder game. The left-handed shot bounced up before it went in. He called it his “Westbrook moment.” It’s the 11th winner in Thunder history and the second this season.
The Nuggets’ season is over.
Thunder will face the Houston Rockets on Sunday in the playoffs.