One of the most dramatic spectacles this NBA season is the consistent registering of insane statistics by former Thunder teammates James Harden and Russell Westbrook.
Their numbers are so impressive that they are either tying or breaking records of two of the statistics kings of all time, Wilt Chamberlain and Oscar Robertson.
What is even more impressive is that they are doing these numbers while leading their team to remarkable winning steaks.
Pouring in 30 a game
When it comes to scoring 30 points or more in a game consecutively, none come close to Chamberlain.
There were 16 instances when at least 13-game streaks of scoring 30 points of more were recorded in NBA history. Chamberlain appeared in six of those, including owning the two of the top three streaks, 65 and 31.
The man he sandwich at second? James Harden, who just passed Chamberlain’s 31 straight when he poured in 30 points the Rockets’ game against the Lakers last February 21 at Los Angeles.
His streak ended at 32. He missed a game against Golden State and came up short by 2 points, finishing with 28 against the Atlanta Hawks at home last February 26. The Hawks stopped him with timely double teams and quadruple teamed him in the last play of the game in an obvious effort to deny him a last crack at extending the record.
Harden’s feat is something special considering that it was only the third time in NBA history that scoring 30 points or more in more than 30 consecutive games was achieved.
Further, Larry Jones was the only other person to do it in 20 or more consecutive games at 23! (Chamberlain also holds a 25 and 20 game streaks in other instances to own 4 of the top 6 spots!)
Harden’s streak started with his big 50 point output in a 126-111 win against the Lakers at home on December 13, 2018. His latest output before the All-Star break was 42 points during a lost at Minnesota, the game tying Chamberlain’s 31.
The Rockets are 21-11 during this stretch, reentering the conversation for playoff berth and strengthening its hold on 5th place in the western conference. They are 8 games behind the conference leading Warriors and 3 ahead on 9th placer Sacramento Kings before the All-Star break.
The Triple Doubles are no fluke
Westbrook, on the other hand, is making former triple double king Robertson look like an ordinary mortal during this hot streak of registering double digit output in three stat categories.
Before Westbrook did his thing during the 2016-17 season, almost every NBA fan thought it might be next to impossible to duplicate Robertson’s feat of averaging a triple double in a season considering former triple double specialists Magic Johnson and Jason Kidd couldn’t pull it off.
Westbrook destroyed any comparison statistically between him and Robertson by not only matching that feat during the 2016-17 season but eclipsing it last season by coming up with his second year of averaging a triple double.
And don’t look now, he has a chance to pull away further from the competition as he is looking good to pull out a third consecutive year with his 21.7 points, 11.2 rebounds, and 11.2 assists average so far this season at the 25 games left mark.
He also just wiped out a record that Chamberlain held in this category before the season started, triple doubles in 9 consecutive games.
Westbrook shattered this one as he went on a triple double binge just before the All-Star break, registering 11 to share the record with nobody.
He started the feat with a 29-10-14 points-rebounds-assists output in a win against the Blazers on January 22, tied the record with a 21-12-11 in a 117-112 road victory against the Rockets on February 9 (This was actually a quadruple double if his negative 10 turnovers is considered as a stat category), and added two more, the latest being a 44-14-11 output against the New Orleans Pelicans on February 14.
His streak ended during the Thunder’s first game after the All-Star break against the Utah Jazz when he fall short in the assists category with 8 while piling 43 points and 15 rebounds.
The Thunder is 9-2 during this streak. They were the third seed in the Western Conference, 4 games behind the Warriors and 3 ahead of fourth seed Portland at the break.
The Numbers are legendary but…
..will they translate to championships?
These two stalwarts had been the subject of debates and questions on whether these two can lead their respective teams to the promise land.
They had been accused of padding their stats at the expense of winning. (I disagree with the padding: In Westbrook’s case, his critics don’t seem to understand the value of the boxout. The bigs pushes their man away so the small man can recover the ball. In Harden’s case, he is a recipient of the D’Antoni system, which heavily relies on isolating him for a basket and he has to shoot in order for them to win.)
That seem not to be the case for both.
For Westbrook, the Thunder is 17-6 when he registers a triple double this season. His team is actually 103-24 in his career whenever he delivers a triple double. Westbrook is +26 in his triple double streak.
He now has a potent running mate in Paul George and their duo are much capable of propelling the Thunder deep in the playoffs. The addition of Markieff Morris will only make their chances better.
Harden scored 30 points or more in 41 of the 57 Rockets games this season. They are 26-15 during those times. When he scores 40 or more, the record goes up to 16-6. Ironically, it drops to 3-2 when he scores 50 or more.
On the other hand, they are just 6-7 in the 13 games where he scored less than 30.
He is a combined +151 during his recent 30-point or more stretch.
The Rockets need Harden to be explosive but he has somehow to get his teammates share in the scoring if the Rockets are to go deep in the playoffs.
Its just a matter of them landing an NBA title. Could this finally be the year for one of them?
By: ARMANDO M. BOLISLIS, stats derived from basketballreference.com and nba.com