While Russell Westbrook continues to pursue one of the NBA’s most difficult records, his longtime coach Scott Brooks has moved him up one spot on an arbitrary list.
Westbrook had the third game in NBA history with 20-plus rebounds and 20-plus assists — he and Wilt Chamberlain have the other two — and the surging Washington Wizards edged the Pacers 154-141 on Monday night to move closer to Indiana in the Eastern Conference playoff standings.
Westbrook had 14 points, 21 rebounds, and a career-high-tying 24 assists for his league-leading 32nd triple-double of the season. With seven games remaining for Washington, he has 178 triple-doubles, three short of Oscar Robertson’s record.
Magic Johnson had 138 triple-doubles, and Brooks, who coached Westbrook for seven seasons in Oklahoma City before reuniting in Washington this season, believes Westbrook is now the NBA’s second-best point guard, trailing only Johnson.
“He’s amazing — superhuman at times,” Brooks said after admitting he’s running out of ways to describe what Westbrook does on a nightly basis.
“Point guards don’t do what he does. They’re not built that way.”
Westbrook didn’t comment on his place in history, but he’s plenty confident about what he’s doing for Washington, which has won 13 of 16.
“Me personally, I feel like I’m the best playmaker in this league,” said Westbrook, who leads the NBA with 11 assists per game.
Rui Hachimura had 27 points and Bradley Beal had 26 as Washington set a season high and moved within a half-game of Indiana for ninth place in the Eastern Conference. Teams finishing seventh through tenth will compete in the league’s new play-in tournament for a spot in the main playoff draw.
The Wizards won the first two meetings against the Pacers to earn the tiebreaker. On Saturday, the teams will meet for the final time this season at Indiana.
For the Pacers, who have lost three of four games, Domantas Sabonis had 32 points and 20 rebounds, and CarVert had 33 points. Eight Pacers scored in double figures as Indiana scored at will, forcing the high-powered Wizards to work hard late in the fourth quarter.
“There’s a lot of pressure on him to perform, and he comes out and does it,” Sabonis, who played with Westbrook in 2016-17, said.
Washington finished the first half on a 20-8 run over the final 4:15 minutes to take an 82-66 lead into the locker room. During that stretch, Westbrook had three of his 11 second-quarter assists. It was Washington’s most productive first half of the season.
At the half, Westbrook had 14 assists and 12 rebounds while shooting just three shots.
Westbrook completed his triple-double with a layup with 10:23 remaining in the third. His 32 assists are the fourth most in an NBA season; he holds the record with 42.
The Pacers allowed a season high in points one game after setting a franchise record with 152 points. Washington shot 61.2 percent from the field.