Westbrook, Thunder go for important win vs. Grizzlies

OKLAHOMA CITY — Russell Westbrook needs 16 rebounds.

His Oklahoma City Thunder need a win even more.

In Wednesday’s regular-season finale at home against the Memphis Grizzlies, Westbrook has a chance to accomplish something that has never been done in NBA history.

But a win for the Thunder would improve Oklahoma City’s playoff position and could possibly even lift it into a top-four seed in the NBA playoffs.

If Westbrook hits that rebounding mark, he would become the first player in league history to average a triple-double in back-to-back seasons. Westbrook has already clinched double-digit averages in scoring (25.6 points per game) and assists (10.1).

In Monday’s win at Miami that clinched a playoff berth, Westbrook had 18 rebounds to get into striking distance of the mark.

“It would be another incredible milestone this year, but it’s not about that. It’s about our team and it’s about winning,” Thunder coach Billy Donovan said. “Rebounding helps us win. The assists get other people involved. I think it speaks to him as a player, more than anything else, in how unique he is.”

With a win, the worst the Thunder could finish would be as the No. 6 seed, avoiding Western Conference powers Golden State and Houston in the first round.

A loss to Memphis could drop Oklahoma City into a matchup against one of the two behemoths.

Oklahoma City needs Portland to beat Utah on Wednesday, coupled with a win over the Grizzlies, to earn home-court advantage in the first round.

For Memphis, the game will mark the end of a forgettable season. The Grizzlies will miss the playoffs for the first time in eight seasons.

A loss would give Memphis 60 losses in a season for the first time in a decade.

The Grizzlies’ season had plenty of promise before point guard Mike Conley was lost for the year in mid-November, eventually requiring surgery to repair his injured heel.

Memphis should land a high draft pick after clinching the second-worst record in the NBA with Monday’s loss at Minnesota.

The Grizzlies will have about a 20 percent chance at earning the top pick in the draft and the worst pick they could have is No. 5.

But even with their struggles, Grizzlies interim coach J.B. Bickerstaff said the players have made progress and competed well, even if wins have been hard to come by.

“Every time they step on the floor they compete to win and that’s the sign of what you want in your program,” Bickerstaff, who replaced David Fizdale in late November, told the Memphis Commercial Appeal. “Everybody from the outside can say whatever they want to say. That’s just a distraction. It’s disrespectful to say those guys are tanking and trying to lose because those guys that are on the floor every night have something to prove, whether it’s here, whether it’s somewhere else. If it’s another team, you know, these guys want to stick. They want to be a part of the NBA so every single night they’re giving their best effort.”