sunny.png
Saturday August 24th, 2019 9:51AM

Westbrook set to learn if his historic season was an MVP one

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A year ago, uncertainty surrounded Russell Westbrook.

Kevin Durant stunned the league by leaving Oklahoma City for rival Golden State in free agency. The four-time scoring champion and former MVP had been the central piece in making the Thunder one of the league's elite teams since the franchise's move to Oklahoma City in 2008.

Westbrook had played his entire NBA career alongside Durant, so questions about how Westbrook would respond immediately cropped up.

He defiantly answered them with memorable performances.

Westbrook became the first player since Oscar Robertson in 1961-62 to average a triple-double for a season and won his second scoring title. He broke Robertson's single-season record with 42 triple-doubles and led the Thunder to the playoffs. Now, he will join Houston's James Harden and San Antonio's Kawhi Leonard as finalists for the league's MVP award. The winner will be announced Monday at the inaugural NBA Awards show.

Westbrook gained satisfaction from the team's success, which largely was fueled by his personal dominance.

"With everything happening last summer, people counted us out," he said the day after Oklahoma City's season ended. "They weren't sure how many games we were going to win or how far we were going to go or whatever, but I think the group of guys, we never let that sink in our building. We stuck together, and that's the thing I'm most proud about."

Westbrook wasn't just stat stuffing, either. The Thunder went 33-9 when he had a triple-double and 14-26 when he didn't. He seemingly gained energy as the season progressed and was statistically better after the All-Star break than before. As for those late-game situations, he led the league with 10 points per game in the fourth quarter and was one of the most dynamic closers in the league.

Westbrook topped Robertson's single-season, triple-double record on April 9 in Denver. His 36-foot game-winning dagger put the final touch on a 50-point, 16-rebound, 10-assist performance that eliminated the Nuggets from playoff contention.

Robertson himself showed up to the Thunder's regular-season finale and endorsed Westbrook for the MVP award.

"What he has done has been historic in nature," Robertson told the crowd that night. "He's played with passion and pride and ability. It's just outstanding what he has done and the way he did it."

Durant might be the least surprised player in the league. Westbrook was dominant while Durant was out with a foot injury during the 2014-15 season and claimed his first scoring title, but it wasn't clear if he could do it all — score, dominate the boards, consistently feed his teammates and come through in big moments — for an entire season.

Turns out, he could.

In the second game of the season, he had 51 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists in a victory over Phoenix, the first 50-point triple-double since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar did it in 1975. On March 27, he had 13 points in a 3-minute barrage to rally the Thunder past Dallas. Two days later in Orlando, he scored 57 points and posted the most points ever in a triple-double. He hit a deep 3-pointer to force overtime, and eventually helped the Thunder win. In one of his most memorable games, he scored 47 points in a loss to Durant's Warriors.

Harden and Leonard also had MVP-caliber seasons:

_____

JAMES HARDEN, HOUSTON

As stunning as Westbrook's triple-double binge was this season, Harden's was impressive, too.

He posted 22 triple-doubles and helped the Rockets finish with the league's third-best record. Harden, known primarily as a scorer throughout his career, shifted from shooting guard to point guard and was nearly unstoppable in coach Mike D'Antoni's fast-paced offense.

Harden led the league with 11.2 assists per game and finished second with 29.1 points per contest. In perhaps his best performance, he had 53 points, 16 rebounds and 17 assists against the New York Knicks on New Year's Eve.

___

KAWHI LEONARD, SAN ANTONIO

Leonard is the two-time reigning Defensive Player of the Year, and he's up for the honor again.

Yet, it was the 6-foot-7 forward's offensive improvement that put him in the mix for the MVP award. He averaged 25.5 points this season after averaging 21.2 the previous year.

Leonard helped the Spurs finish with the league's second-best record. He seemed to play as the stage got bigger.

He opened the season with a career-high 35 points in a blowout win over the Warriors. Leonard upped that career high with 41 points in a win over Cleveland on Jan. 21, and he dropped 39 points in a victory over Houston on March 6.

___

Follow Cliff Brunt on Twitter: www.twitter.com/CliffBruntAP .

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP Sports, AP Online Basketball, AP National News, AP Online National News, Top General short headlines, AP Sports - NBA
© Copyright 2019 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Westbrook set to learn if his historic season was an MVP one
Westbrook turns in MVP-caliber season after Durant's departure
2:06AM ( 3 minutes ago )
Chance honored by Obama, '90s nostalgia rules at BET Awards
Chance the Rapper was honored as rapper and humanitarian at the 2017 BET Awards
2:02AM ( 7 minutes ago )
Air bag recalls, lawsuits lead Takata to file for bankruptcy
Japanese air bag maker Takata Corp. files for bankruptcy protection in Tokyo and the U.S., overcome by lawsuits and recall costs
1:50AM ( 20 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
Maury Wills calls last game for North Dakota team
Former Los Angeles Dodgers standout Maury Wills has retired again, this time from broadcasting
11:30PM ( 2 hours ago )
Ex-star Maury Wills calls last game for North Dakota team
Former Los Angeles Dodgers standout Maury Wills has retired again, this time from broadcasting
11:04PM ( 3 hours ago )
Tebow being promoted to Mets' affiliate in Florida
Former Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow promoted to Mets' high-A affiliate in Florida
10:35PM ( 3 hours ago )
AP Sports
Big3 begins: 3-on-3 league has close games, not much Iverson
Basketball's newest league started with a game-winning basket and an injured former NBA player
7:23PM ( 6 hours ago )
Big3 begins: Close games open Ice Cube's new 3-on-3 league
Basketball's newest league started with a game-winning basket and an injured former NBA player
4:55PM ( 9 hours ago )
Big3 3-on-3 league begins with a game-winner and an injury
Basketball's newest league started with a game-winning basket and an injured former NBA player
3:30PM ( 10 hours ago )
AP Online Basketball
'Pharma Bro' defies advice to keep quiet before fraud trial
A former pharmaceutical CEO who became a pariah after raising the cost of a life-saving medication 5,000 percent can't keep quiet ahead of his fraud trial
12:25AM ( 1 hour ago )
Pharmacy head to be sentenced in deadly meningitis outbreak
The co-founder of a Massachusetts compounding pharmacy is set to be sentenced in a deadly nationwide meningitis outbreak that killed more than 60 people and sickened hundreds more
12:19AM ( 1 hour ago )
The Latest: Remy Ma beats Minaj for BET's hip hop honor
The Latest: Remy Ma beats rival Nicki Minaj for best female hip hop artist at BET Awards
12:13AM ( 1 hour ago )
AP National News
Remy Ma best Nicki Minaj at BET Awards ; 90s R&B shines
Remy Ma has ended rival Nicki Minaj's seven-year winning streak at the 2017 BET Awards, a show highlighted by '90s R&B and groups popular in that decade
11:57PM ( 2 hours ago )
Dozens missing after tourist boat sinks in Colombia
Officials say that a tourist boat packed with about 160 passengers for the holiday weekend capsized on a reservoir near the Colombian city of Medellin, leaving at least six people dead and 31 missing
11:22PM ( 2 hours ago )
The Latest: Chance the Rapper honored at BET Awards
The Latest: Michelle Obama honors Chance the Rapper via video for humanitarian work at BET Awards
10:59PM ( 3 hours ago )
AP Online National News
It's time for No. 1 pick Fultz to turn 76ers into winners
Markelle Fultz made his official welcome to Philadelphia
4:27PM ( 2 days ago )
Ice Cube has big expectations for his Big3 3-on-3 league
Ice Cube promises serious basketball for his new 3-on-3 basketball league
2:30AM ( 2 days ago )
Fewer players with international ties picked in NBA draft
There was a distinct international feel to the NBA Draft, as usual, but nowhere near as impactful as the record haul of 27 a year ago
1:18AM ( 3 days ago )
AP Sports - NBA
Chance honored by Obama, '90s nostalgia rules at BET Awards
Chance the Rapper was honored as rapper and humanitarian at the 2017 BET Awards
2:02AM ( 7 minutes ago )
Firefighters battle intense wildfires in Utah, California
Firefighters are continuing to battle a large wildfire in Utah and another wildfire has broken out in Santa Clarita north of Los Angeles
1:42AM ( 28 minutes ago )
The Latest: Trump optimistic on health care; some doubtful
Trump optimistic on health care passage; but some lawmakers say it will be difficult
1:24AM ( 45 minutes ago )
China sentences 3 Australian Crown Resorts staff to prison
Australian and Chinese employees of a casino company pleaded guilty to charges relating to gambling and the three Australians were sentenced to nine or 10 months' imprisonment
1:23AM ( 47 minutes ago )
Winners at Sunday night's BET Awards in Los Angeles
List of winners at Sunday night's BET Awards in Los Angeles, where Beyonce and Bruno Mars tied for video of the year
12:59AM ( 1 hour ago )