Russell Westbrook was only 7-of-18 from the field against the Houston Rockets on Tuesday night, but poor shooting night can't really hold Westbrook back. With 21 points -- 14 of which came in the fourth quarter -- 15 assists and 13 rebounds, Westbrook earned his 15th triple-double of the season to lead the Oklahoma City Thunder to a 111-107 win over the Rockets.
Westbrook's 15th triple-double is the most by an NBA player in a season since Magic Johnson had 17 in the 1990-91 season. After recording 11 last season, Westbrook has been on a tear -- he has six triple-doubles in the last nine games and has led the Thunder to five straight wins.
James Harden had 24 points and a career-high 16 assists in the loss as the Rockets fell to 35-36, which leaves them a half-game ahead of the Utah Jazz for the eighth playoff spot in the West.
The Thunder are in no danger of missing the playoffs, but they're still missing a signature win in the second half of the season. If Westbrook continues to take over like he did against the Rockets, they'll have a great chance against the San Antonio Spurs on Saturday.
Even on an off shooting night -- 8-of-35 from behind the arc -- the Thunder were able to dispatch the Rockets. Kevin Durant was only 1-of-5 from deep but had 23 points and seven rebounds. Dion Waiters was the only Thunder player who could shoot. He was a force off the bench with 17 points thanks to 3-of-6 shooting from deep.
The fourth quarter was all Westbrook, however. He sliced through the Rockets defense at will. His intensity was unmatched -- especially by Harden on the play below (although, can you blame not trying to stop a 4-on-1?).
Even when Westbrook wasn't scoring through the first three quarters, he was everywhere on the court, as he always is. Durant might be the team's best player, but Westbrook makes the Thunder go.
For the Thunder, it was another notch in the win column, but an expected one. Aside from their win over the Spurs in the first game of the season, the Thunder are still looking for a win over an elite team (much less the Golden State Warriors). They'll get a chance against the Spurs on Saturday, and Westbrook will need to be at his best.
The Spurs were able to shut down the shooting of Stephen Curry in their win over the Warriors on March 19, but can they stop Westbrook when he's firing on all cylinders? Can anyone?
2 other things
The Rockets need to be very worried about making the playoffs
The Rockets are only a half-game up on the Utah Jazz for the eighth and final playoff spot in the West. Tuesday's game against the Thunder was a winnable one, but the Rockets had no answer for the clutch play of Westbrook, and they missed an opportunity to tie the game in the final seconds.
Trailing by two with 11.9 seconds left, the Rockets drew up a great play out of the timeout. Dwight Howard was wide open under the hoop, but Harden didn't get him the ball quickly enough.
It appears Harden was lining up to take Durant one-on-one rather than looking for a rolling Howard -- until it was too late. Waiters was able to make a huge defensive play.
The Rockets don't have the luxury of missing opportunities like this one. They'll have a chance to make up for it on Wednesday, though. They face the Jazz in Houston.
The Charlotte Hornets and Miami Heat continue to do what they need to do
The Hornets and Heat didn't exactly pick up big wins over the Brooklyn Nets and New Orleans Pelicans, respectively, but at least they picked up wins. Both teams are streaking through March -- the Hornets are 11-2 in the month and the Heat are 8-3. Nicolas Batum led the Hornets with 23 points and Jeremy Lin added 21 as the Hornets avoided a letdown after their big win over the Spurs on Monday. Dwyane Wade had 25 points and seven rebounds and Hassan Whiteside had 24 points and 14 boards for the Heat, who continue to excel even with Chris Bosh sitting out. They'll get a tougher test on Wednesday when they face the Spurs.
The Heat and the Hornets lead a resurgent Eastern Conference, a conference that could make the Cleveland Cavaliers' path to the NBA title much more difficult than it was last season.
Play of the night
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson missed 50 games after breaking his right ankle, but the Nets rookie looks healthy now. It's good to see at least something going well for the Nets in this miserable year.
3 fun things
First time in 33 career meetings that Tony Allen (27) out scored Kobe Bryant (20).— Josh Eberley (@JoshEberley) March 23, 2016
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March Madness: Northern Iowa's improbable late-game collapse
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