Since mid-November, this NBA season has been characterized by a sense of inevitability. The Golden State Warriors, miles ahead of every other team (except this season’s other historically great team, the San Antonio Spurs, which they are merely a few hundred meters ahead of) effectively killed the horse race narrative. We’ve known where this season is headed for months and it’s all but certain that the Western Conference Finals, not the NBA Finals themselves, will be this season’s defining series.
That sense of inevitability can also be freeing though, in that it allows actual play to stand in starker relief. The Oklahoma City Thunder’s Russell Westbrook is a case in point. Overshadowed by the Dubs’ Curry, Westbrook, not known for doing anything quietly, has quietly become the second-best player in the league. This season, with his teammate Kevin Durant back, he’s also playing the most controlled basketball of his career—not restrained, mind you, just controlled. For the first time in his career, Westbrook is in total command of the practically demonic energy he summons to exert his wrath upon the league. The result is an astonishing statistical season. And no statistic explains Westbrook better than the triple-double. Last night, Westbrook notched his seventh triple-double of the month (tying him with Michael Jordan for most in a calendar month) and sixteenth of the season (placing him one behind Magic Johnson for most in a season).
About that sense of inevitability. The Thunder have won eight straight. Yes, they’ll have to beat both San Antonio and Golden State to make it to the Finals, but for the first time this season, they look like they could.