How is it possible to notch an NBA-record 10th straight triple-double and still not be the wildest spectacle on your own team? Such is the mild plight of Russell Westbrook, stuffing the box score in the shadow of his happiest-ever co-star, Paul George. Westbrook’s 21-point, 11-assist, 14-rebound line was dwarfed by George’s 47-10-12 in the Thunder’s 120-111 win over Portland on Monday. Leave it to the dude who singlehandedly numbed the world to the triple-double to remind us just how thrilling they can be when paired. They’re the first NBA teammates to log 20-point triple-doubles in a game.
Each guy helped the other get there. A George pick-and-pop nudged Westbrook to his historic statistical streak. Westbrook, returning the favor, was apparently the one who told George that he was one assist shy of his own, so with just under a minute to play, the Thunder ran a play to bump their MVP candidate into double-digits in the assist column. George’s decisive dime was, fittingly, a swing out to Westbrook for three. Amid (yet another) arctic 26 percent shooting night from No. 0, that three still swooshed. “When it’s time to do something for a teammate, your brother, it’s easy for me because I do that each and every night,” Russ told reporters after the game.
It’s nice to see Westbrook so happy again with his running mate. It’s nicer still to see that guy a) is not a vainglorious cheesebutt, and b) is blooming into his best self, and an altogether superior player. Not only do they play nice, but PG can absolutely run the show himself. The no-Russ, George-centerpiece lineup is still the Thunder’s best five-man squad this year, boasting a 24.3 net rating, even better than the already excellent 13.6 of their starting lineup. George’s comfort scoring and facilitating as the primary ball-handler affords his sidekick the luxury of rest, because, yes, even something that looks like Russell Westbrook needs its rest.
Monday night George lit the Blazers up for 17 points in the first 10 minutes, and never really met any resistance thereafter. He painted another of his pretty shot charts, a spray around the arc and a a steady battery at the rim:
PG is in his zone and showcasing his full variety: eight threes, a homicidal poster dunk, slick dribble moves, steals that led to rim attacks that rip right through transition defense, and-ones where his length lets him flick it in right over the heavy contact. And, of course, those sweet gliding drives where the ball seems to be floating out in front of him the whole time, only for George to coolly slither through traffic, grab it, and take it right to the rim. Though plenty of dudes put up big numbers these days, I submit that no one makes 47 look this smooth:
When he’s this confident, George looks like he’s just messing around on his driveway, testing out a few moves to shake off an overzealous younger brother:
Zooming out a bit, it’s been a nonstop torrent for George over the recent stretch:
Thunder beat man Royce Young previously took note of George’s statistical tear during Westbrook’s triple-double streak, and the numbers only look more staggering after Monday night: 37.0 points, 8.5 rebounds, 4.7 assists, 2.5 steals, shooting 50 percent from the field and from the arc through 10 games, ato go along with his trademark defense. If that’s not the MVP, it’s pretty damn close.
It looks unlikely right now, of course, but George has been prone to come to a screeching halt this time of year. Historically he hits a rough shooting patch around the All-Star break, which you can see clearly in his career monthly splits, and which Fred Katz detailed last season. He’s bounced back after, but February and March have not typically been kind to him. We’ll see if he can maintain this level, which seems untenable. But anything close to this should get him past the first round of the playoffs for the first time in five years. If this is the Thunder team we get to watch for the next three or so years—even accounting for time’s drag on Westbrook’s bounce—it’s going to be a pretty good ride.