On Friday night, Russell Westbrook had a chance to make history. Well, he did make history, , but he had a chance to make more history, as a triple-double would be his 42nd of the season, setting a new single-season record.
Westbrook really wanted that to happen. The Phoenix Suns did not. And it lead to the strangest few minutes of “basketball” of the season. Let’s pick things up with 4:25 left in the fourth quarter, after Westbrook got his eighth assist of the night.
4:25 -- Westbrook drives and kicks to Doug McDermott, who hits an open 3, giving Westbrook eight assists on the night, and pulling him within two assists of history. On the broadcast, you can clearly hear the screams of the desperate Thunder fans, and probably some Suns fans as well, as they know how close they are to witnessing history. Oh, also, McDermott’s triple pulled the Thunder to within ... 22.
3:57 -- The next time down the floor, the Suns are just completely ignoring Westbrook when he has the ball, but he’s so desperate for the last two assists that he doesn’t take a shot on either of these occasions.
3:52 -- Eventually, Westbrook was able to find an open teammate, and gets Steven Adams the ball in the middle of the paint, but the big man passes the ball out instead of shooting, and the fans lost their minds. They started booing so loudly, that it was clearly audible on the broadcast.
3:21 -- This time, the Suns do pick Westbrook up, and T.J. Warren pokes the ball away from the Thunder point guard, and as the scramble for the loose ball is happening, the buzz in the arena sounds like fans are gearing up for the final play of a playoff game. Steven Adams dives for the loose ball, however, and recovers it to Westbrook, who drives into the paint, and gets one-on-one with Alan Williams. That’s usually an automatic attack of the rim from Westbrook, but he hangs in the air, turns his back to the basket, and lobs out a pass to Adams, who is just barely getting up from the floor.
Seriously, look at this, it’s amazing. He turned his back before he even jumped!
3:07 -- After Kyle Singler launches a 3, Westbrook comes flying in from the weak side to grab the rebound, then moves to the corner, where he’s left extremely wide open. Like, Jared Dudley sees how open he is, and starts moving the other way towards the paint. And Westbrook still didn’t shoot!
Instead, Westbrook passes to a cutting Adams, who is immediately hacked by multiple Suns players, preventing him from scoring, and preventing Westbrook from getting another assist. Dudley, who was one of the Suns players in on the action started shaking his head, clearly indicating he wasn’t about to let history happen. As for the fans, well, you’re going to be surprised by this, but they were not fond of this tactic.
2:57 -- As Devin Booker -- who was going absolutely bonkers in the fourth quarter to this point, having scored all 17 of the Suns’ points in the frame -- is dribbling out on the wing, a loud “Let’s Go Westbrook!” chant breaks out. In Phoenix. Booker responds by draining a step-back jumper, giving him 19 points in the quarter, and turns to bark at the fans.
So now we have an on-fire Devin Booker turning to the crowd in his own arena and telling them to shut up. Absolute scenes.
Devin Booker nails 22-foot jumper with shot clock running down and yells to Suns fans chanting, "Russell Westbrook," "This Is My House."— Marc J. Spears (@MarcJSpearsESPN) April 8, 2017
2:35 -- As Westbrook takes the ball down the other end of the floor, the Suns quickly intentionally foul him, sending him to the line, and making sure he won’t get a chance to get an assist. Once again, the fans broke out in a chorus of boos, as they realized their chance to see history was slipping away.
2:34 -- After shooting the free throws, Westbrook took a foul to get a stoppage of play, and subbed himself out of the game. That was it; 23 points, 12 rebounds, and 8 assists was his final line. No triple-double No. 42, no history just yet.
Postgame -- Following the game, the Suns weren’t even trying to hide their tactics. They were not about to let Westbrook get a triple-double on their watch.
Booker added, “I want to see him reach history. Just not here in Phoenix.”
The Suns did their job, and got the win in the process. Which, maybe wasn’t exactly what they wanted, giving the lottery standings, but the Lakers won again as well, for some reason, so the Suns didn’t lose any ground there.
As for Westbrook, well it doesn’t seem he’s too pleased.
By the way...Russ is still shooting. It's been about 30 minutes already. First bus is leaving— Ramona Shelburne (@ramonashelburne) April 8, 2017
In the end, there was no historic triple-double No. 42, but the Suns and Thunder will go down in history for playing some of the strangest few minutes of basketball we’ve seen in a long time.