Russell Westbrook is poised to break an NBA record that has stood for more than a half-century.
Westbrook, whose Oklahoma City Thunder travels to Memphis on Wednesday to meet the Grizzlies, needs one triple-double to break Oscar Robertson’s single-season record of 41.
Robertson averaged better than a triple-double — something else Westbrook is on the cusp of doing — during the 1961-62 season when he set the record.
“It wasn’t something I thought about,” Robertson told The Oklahoman newspaper recently.
Probably because the term triple-double hadn’t been coined and it wasn’t yet an official NBA stat.
Westbrook tied the mark on Tuesday in Oklahoma City’s 110-79 rout of Milwaukee. He finished with 12 points, 13 rebounds and 13 assists in just 27 minutes, his shortest time on the court in a triple-double game this season.
Westbrook needs just 16 assists over the team’s final five games to average a triple-double for the season. His current season averages in points, rebounds and assists: 31.9, 10.7 and 10.4.
“It’s something that I could never dream about growing up in the inner city of Los Angeles,” Westbrook said. “I never dreamed about a moment like this, to be able to be on this stage.
“I air-balled a 3 right after (tying the record). But at the same time, we were winning, and that’s the most important thing. Tonight was a great night.”
The Thunder (44-33) hold the sixth seed in the Western Conference. Memphis (42-36), which lost 95-89 in overtime in San Antonio on Tuesday, is 2 1/2 games behind in seventh.
The first round of the NBA playoffs will be pick-your-poison for the two teams.
Do you want to draw the NBA’s No. 2 offense or No. 2 defense?
Oklahoma City would face Houston if the playoffs started today, while the Grizzlies would play San Antonio. The Rockets are second to Golden State in scoring, at better than 115 points per game. The Spurs are one of two teams in the league who hold opponents under 100 points a game.
A Thunder-Rockets series would feature the NBA’s two leading MVP candidates: Westbrook and Houston’s James Harden (second in the league with 29.2 points per game). In a recent survey by The Washington Post of likely MVP voters, Harden had a clear advantage.
After the Thunder’s rout of the Bucks, Milwaukee guard Jason Terry was convinced who the winner should be.
“(Westbrook) put a stamp on it tonight,” Terry said. “He’s the MVP, there’s no question. I had (James) Harden all year long; but, after witnessing it up close and personal, how can you not give it to a guy who accomplished such a great feat? You’ve got to give it to him; he earned it. He really went and took it.”
Marc Gasol, the Grizzlies’ second-leading scorer, returned to the lineup Tuesday after missing five games. He had 11 points, six rebounds and seven assists in 30 minutes.
Even with a shot at moving up a spot in the standings, the Grizzlies, who clinched their seventh straight trip to the playoffs with win over Dallas Friday, know player health is probably a more important factor.
“Wherever we end up, it’s going to be a great team anyway,” Memphis coach David Fizdale told The (Memphis) Commercial-Appeal. “Right now, it’s the last five games, so can we get better? Can we get some guys feeling healthier? We’ve got some guys really nicked up.
“We just have to try to regroup and work on our game,” Memphis point guard Mike Conley told the Commercial-Appeal. “It doesn’t matter who we play in the playoffs; it’s going to be a good team, so we have to be ready.”
Wednesday’s game is the first of four at home for the Grizzlies to close out the season. They host the Knicks on Friday.
For Oklahoma City, it’s the beginning of a four-game road trip. The Thunder then returns home to host the Denver Nuggets in the season finale.