WASHINGTON (AP) — While Russell Westbrook continues to chase down one of the NBA’s toughest records, his longtime coach Scott Brooks moved him up one spot on an unscientific 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 moved closer to Indiana in the Eastern Conference playoff standings by outgunning the Pacers 154-141 on Monday night.
Westbrook had 14 points to go along with his career-high 21 rebounds and career-high-tying 24 assists, his league-leading 32nd triple-double of the season. He has 178 triple-doubles, three short of Oscar Robertson’s record, with seven games remaining for Washington.
Magic Johnson had 138 triple-doubles, and Brooks — who coached Westbrook for seven seasons in Oklahoma City before they reunited in Washington this season — said he now believes Westbrook is the second-best point guard in NBA history behind 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 scored 27 points and Bradley Beal had 26 as Washington scored a season high and moved within one-half game of Indiana for ninth place in the East. Teams that finish between seventh and 10th will enter the league’s new play-in tournament for the main playoff draw.
The Wizards earned the tiebreaker over the Pacers by winning the first two meetings. The teams meet one more time this season at Indiana on Saturday.
Domantas Sabonis had 32 points and 20 rebounds and Caris LeVert scored 33 points for the Pacers, who have lost three of four. Eight Pacers finished in double figures as Indiana scored mostly at will, forcing the high-powered Wizards to work hard deep into the fourth quarter.
Sabonis, who played with Westbrook in 2016-17, had this to say: “There’s a lot of pressure on him to perform, and he comes out and does it.”
Washington finished the first half with a 20-8 run over the final 4:15 to take an 82-66 lead at the break. Westbrook had three of his 11 second-quarter assists during that stretch. It was Washington’s highest scoring first half of the season.
Westbrook had 14 assists and 12 rebounds at the half while taking just three shots.
Westbrook’s layup with 10:23 left in the third clinched his triple-double. His 32 are the fourth most in any NBA season; he holds the record with 42.
One game removed from scoring a franchise record 152 points, the Pacers allowed a season high in points as Washington shot 61.2% from the field.
Westbrook, who said he grew up wanting to play in the NFL, had a moment in the second quarter when he looked like one of the best quarterbacks around. He threw a near-full court pass to Beal, hitting him in stride for a layup, and raised his hands to signal touchdown. It was one of Washington’s franchise-record 50 assists.