It’s Too Bad The First 50-Point Triple Double In Postseason History Was Reduced To Memes

Russell Westbrook did everything he could to keep the Oklahoma City Thunder from falling behind 2-0 to the Houston Rockets. He put together the first 50-point triple-double in NBA postseason history. He had 22-8-10 at the half and helped Oklahoma City build an 86-73 lead on a step-back three with 3:50 left in the third…

Westbrook then went 4 of 18 in the fourth quarter, watched Houston rip off a 10-0 run in crunch time and saw his new piece of playoff history reduced to the meme-worthy image you see above. He finished with 51 points, 13 assists and 10 rebounds in a 115-111 loss.

He fell to James Harden and company because he ultimately failed, unable to hit shots in the fourth while the Rockets collectively turned it on. The Thunder will go as Russ goes, and they both fell apart down the stretch. Westbrook’s efficiency numbers dropped in kind, and those that think Harden should win MVP over Westbrook gained another point to make in their admittedly compelling case.

When Russ was on, though, he was his usual shade of brilliant. Here’s a nice assist on the fast break after a Harden turnover, finding Victor Oladipo for the alley-oop.

He also made plenty happen on his own, including this beauty of a coast-to-coast drive that included a spin move behind the 3-point arc.

Harden, on the other hand, had a tidy 35 points, eight assists and four rebounds in the win. He heard chants of “MVP” from the Toyota Center crowd when he went to the free throw line late in the game. He missed his last two, but went 18 for 18 before the game got out of hand.

Seconds before that, Westbrook missed a pair of threes that could have made it close — one after a backcourt turnover and again after a long rebound off his first shot was tipped out past midcourt by the Rockets and recovered by Oklahoma City.

The game set up yet another stark contrast between the two MVP candidates. While Westbrook did everything he could to drag the Thunder to a victory, Harden put up less gaudy numbers but took care of what matters most—winning. Westbrook took—and often missed—every big shot down the stretch. Meanwhile, a quick five points from Eric Gordon extended the Rockets’ sudden lead and Harden only needed to hit his free throws to seal the 2-0 first round lead.

Then in the game’s final moments, as the win slipped away, Westbrook gave the internet what it wanted.

It’s fitting that in a quarter where he simply couldn’t find the bottom of the net, he found the camera with ease. His look says it all: it’s Jim from The Office breaking the fourth wall with a knowing smirk. Or maybe Westbrook is Michael Bluth peering at the paper bag in the fridge labeled “DEAD DOVE Do Not Eat” and saying, “I don’t know what I expected” to no one in particular.

It’s great television and perfect fodder for memers on social media. But it does a disservice to the pyrrhic victory that so often is Westbrook’s greatness. Think about it — Westbrook went completely cold in the fourth quarter and still had one of the most impressive statistical performances in playoff history for a doomed team that relies on him for everything.

Whether he wins MVP or not, I still think it doesn’t matter. Watching Russell Westbrook play is something special. It’s a beautiful mess, watching an immensely talented basketball player try to hack the game in real time. Westbrook will continue to be brilliant, whether the Thunder come up short twice more or not.

Oklahoma City almost certainly won’t make it past this series, but it’s so interesting to see Russell Westbrook try to play all the positions on the chess board at once. He got close to winning on Wednesday night before he got sloppy and it slipped away. But there’s no doubt he’s going to keep trying until he runs out of moves or the pieces finally move the way he pictures them dancing in his head.