On April 9th in 2017, Russell Westbrook had a game for the ages.
A couple of days after becoming only the second player ever to secure a triple-double average for the season in Phoenix, Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder were in Denver. While the OKC franchise had already booked their playoff spot, the Nuggets were still battling for the eighth and final ticket in the West with the Portland Trail Blazers.
As the game began, the Thunder held the lead for the majority of the first quarter but then the game began to turn. The script favoured the Nuggets, who needed a win to keep their playoff hopes alive, as they led for nearly all of the final three quarters.
However, the Thunder didn't let the game get away from them as they trailed by their biggest deficit of 14 with 5:56 remaining in the game. That's when Westbrook took over.
Over the final six minutes of the game, Westbrook single-handedly outplayed the Nuggets. During this time, he scored 18 of the Thunder's 21 points including the last 15 and recorded just a single assist.... but it was a historic one.
A bullet to Semaj Christian which resulted in a three with 4:16 left in the game meant that Westbrook had registered his 42nd triple-double of the season, breaking Oscar Robertson's 55-year record of 41.
Then, he began chasing the game. Despite Westbrook's heroics, the Thunder were down 105-103 with 2.9 seconds left. Then, this happened:
GAME WINNER!!!! Russell Westbrook drills the deep three to beat the @nuggets at the buzzer pic.twitter.com/dfGDHA4AUZ- NBA Australia (@NBA_AU) April 9, 2017
The buzzer-beating game-winner not only clinched the game for Thunder 106-105 but it gave Westbrook 50 points (along with his 16 rebounds and 10 assists) for the game and the loss meant the Nuggets were eliminated from the race for the West's final playoff seed.
With averages of 31.6 points, 10.7 rebounds, and 10.4 assists, Westbrook would be named league MVP for the 2016-17 season.
Other notable events on April 9th
- In 1957, Bob Cousy dished out an NBA Finals record 19 assists in a 124-109 Game 5 win over the St. Louis Hawks. Later Lakers' Magic Johnson set a new Finals record of 21 assists in a 137-104 Game 3 win against the Boston Celtics in the 1984 Finals.
- In 1958, Bob Petit set an NBA Finals record for most free-throws made in a single game. He knocked down 19 as the St. Louis Hawks beat the Boston Celtics' 102-100 in Game 5 of the 1958 Finals.
- In 1959, the Boston Celtics beat the Minneapolis Lakers 118-113 in Game 4 to record the first series sweep in the NBA Finals history. The 1959 NBA Championship was the first of eight straight that the Celtics clinched from 1959 to 1967.
- In 1978, Denver Nuggets' David Thompson scored 73 points in a 139-137 loss to the Detroit Pistons but George Gervin scored 63 points and edged Thompson 27.22 to 27.15 for the 1978 scoring title - the closest scoring title race ever.
- In 1978, John Havlicek played his final game for the Boston Celtics. The C's won 131-114 against the Buffalo Braves as Havlicek finished as the team's highest scorer with 29 points.
- In 1982, the Boston Celtics retired Jo Jo White's #10 jersey at the Boston Garden. Of the Hall of Famer's 837 career games, he played all but 120 with the Celtics.
- In 1990, during a 119-115 overtime victory over the Utah Jazz, the Phoenix Suns knocked down an NBA record 61 free throws (of 80 attempts).
- In 1998, Seattle Supersonics head coach George Karl records his 500th career win.
- In 2002, the New Jersey Nets, with a 101-88 victory over the Washington Wizards, clinched their first division title since joining the NBA from the ABA in 1976.
Game-winning buzzer-beaters on April 9th
D'Angelo Russell vs. Minnesota Timberwolves in 2017
James Harden vs. Phoenix Suns in 2013
Gilbert Arenas vs. Philadelphia 76ers in 2004
Tim Hardaway vs. New York Knicks in 2000
Lindsey Hunter vs. Indiana Pacers in 1999
Clyde Drexler vs. Denver Nuggets in 1995
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