About Last Night
About Last Night: Mining for milestones
Harden, Westbrook keep streaks alive; Knicks, Wizards reach some milestones, too
Matt Petersen, NBA.com
Two years after becoming the first player since Oscar Robertson to average a triple-double — and one year after doing so again — Russell Westbrook has now set a mark equaled by no one.
With 21 points, 14 rebounds and 11 assists in the Thunder’s 120-111 win over Portland, the former Kia MVP logged his 10th consecutive triple-double — a streak that surpasses that of Wilt Chamberlain and sets a new NBA record.
Unlike his MVP campaign, Westbrook’s stat-stuffing performance was accompanied by that of Paul George in a manner symbolic of OKC’s season. The second-year Thunder poured on 47 points 12 rebounds and 10 assists, marking the first time in league history that teammates have logged triple-doubles with at least 20 points in the same game.
More importantly, the combined effort gave Oklahoma City a vital win over a Western Conference opponent. The Thunder are now just a game back of second-place Denver while boasting a firm four-game cushion over the same Blazers team they vanquished on Monday night. George’s continued dominance (28.7 ppg, 8.0 rpg, 4.1 apg, 2.3 spg) begs consideration at this year’s MVP table.
All of this might be possible simply because Westbrook has taken the tiniest of half-steps back while allowing George and others to flourish. His usage rate is down 3.5 percent from last season — and a whopping 11.1 percent from his MVP season. Westbrook’s shot attempts are their lowest since Kevin Durant’s last season in Oklahoma City, while his assists per game are at their highest.
Yet even as Westbrook takes that step back, he’s still breaking ground no one has touched before.
Speaking of Wilt and streaks…
With the Rockets leading Dallas by as many as 21 and James Harden sitting on a mortal scoring total of just 20 points, the reigning Kia MVP needed a pretty good excuse to continue his historic run of 30-point games.
Exit James. Enter “The Beard.”
A step-back 3-pointer. Then another. A pair of free throws. Finally, a one-dribble, you’re-really-leaving-me-more-than-an-inch triple that set the Rockets faithful afrenzy and kept his ridiculous streak intact and thriving. It was vintage Harden, the kind of two-minute blitz that reminds you that he can seemingly score whenever he wants.
And if that didn’t remind you, well, Harden will.
“Nobody can take me out. I’m zoned in right now,” Harden told EA Sports. “So, even with all the negativity, people can say negative things or make their little smart remarks or comments, that won’t stop me.”
Certainly no one can equal him in regards to what is now 30 straight games of 30 points or more — not since Wilt Chamberlain, anyway. Yet Harden would rather avoid another streak of Chamberlain’s: that of going title-less in multiple MVP seasons. Wilt went 1-for-4 in those campaigns, winning in 1967 while losing in 1960, 1966 and 1968. Right now, Harden is 0-for-1, with another Maurice Podoloff trophy in play but his first Larry O’Brien trophy still waiting.
And as Kobe Bryant pointed out last week — with Harden agreeing — this current version of The Beard may not be what gets the Rockets over the Bay Area-sized hump.
“For right now, [Bryant’s] probably right,” Harden told ESPN. “This way, that we’re playing, won’t happen, won’t get us to where we want to go. But we haven’t had a full roster yet, so I’m excited for that to come.”
Until then, we’ll simply see how long Harden’s incredible streak will hold out.
Who’s got Kawhi?
The Brooklyn Nets continue to impress with their relentless hustle and competition even against the league’s best. Their comeback bid in Toronto, however, ultimately came up short because their zone defense didn’t completely account for the Raptors’ best player.
With the game tied, the Nets appeared to be still communicating defensive assignments right up to when Kawhi Leonard caught the ball at the elbow. The sequence left Brooklyn big man Jarrett Allen guarding Leonard, who easily created space for the game-winning jumper for the Raptors’ 127-125 victory.
Million-dollar move, 10-cent finish
Luka Doncic is usually on the winning side of a highlight, but Houston’s PJ Tucker nearly broke the Maverick rookie’s ankles with a crossover of his own.
Problem was, Tucker immediately followed up the camera-worthy move with an over-energetic pass.
When you miss orientation
Marc Gasol received a rousing ovation and performed admirably (22 minutes, 16 points, six rebounds, two assists) in his Raptors home debut. What he didn’t receive was a heads up on the pregame intros routine.
A different kind of consistency
It doesn’t take a genius to know the Knicks have struggled for a while. Basketball’s mecca has enjoyed just six playoff appearances (and three series wins) in the 21st century. Their two most recent All-Stars (Carmelo Anthony and Kristaps Porzingis) are no longer with the team. Their best hope now lies with the upcoming offseason and the hoard of cap space prepared for it.
For now, the Knicks are officially mired in the worst losing streak in franchise history, which reached 17 games after their 107-104 loss at Cleveland. At least they’ve got this Mario Hezonja poster dunk…
Things are hardly better in the nation’s capital, where the Wizards’ 121-112 loss ensured that Washington will win less than 50 games for the 40th consecutive season. The last time they surpassed the 50-win mark: their 1978-79 championship season.