Basketball

NBA records set to tumble

Thunders' Westbrook on track to smash a 55-year mark, but he is only one of many eyeing a place in history

CHICAGO BULLS OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER
94 109

Russell Westbrook fell one rebound shy of his 18th triple-double of the season, but his 21 points were enough to guide the Oklahoma City Thunder to a 109-94 victory over the Bulls in Chicago yesterday morning (Singapore time).

The competition's scoring leader maintained his sizzling form, adding 14 assists and nine rebounds in the win - the fourth time this season he finished one point, one rebound or one assist shy of a triple-double.

In a campaign which has produced some crazy statistics, Westbrook could become the first player in 55 years to average a triple-double over a season.

Three teams are also on pace to shatter the record for three-point attempts. And 40- or 50-point games are coming in epic numbers.

HAVEN FOR SHARPSHOOTERS

A growing emphasis on three-point shooting, aided by rule changes that encourage more outside activity and a growing sense that potential rewards from beyond the arc outweigh the risks, has seen the NBA evolve into a haven for long-range sharpshooters and versatile playmakers.

Westbrook leads the NBA with 31.4 points a game and averages 10.6 rebounds and 10.3 assists in a bid to become only the second player to average a triple-double for a season, after Oscar Robertson achieved the feat in the 1961/62 campaign.

"With a player like that, you just prepare for the best, hope for the worst. He's at a different level," Houston Rockets guard Patrick Beverley told the NBA's website.

But it's not just Westbrook. Houston's James Harden joined Westbrook and Michael Jordan over the weekend as the only players in the past 40 years with multiple 40-point triple-doubles in the same season.

Eight players have scored 50 points in a game this season, matching an NBA record.

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    NBA records set to tumble

    Houston Rockets’ James Harden (left) joined Russell Westbrook and Michael Jordan over the weekend as the only players in the past 40 years with multiple 40-point triple-doubles in the same season.

Where mid-range jumpers were once all the rage, now the outside is in.

In 2004, the NBA changed rules to outlaw hand-checking above the free-throw line, giving quicker players an extra edge. Big men had won four of the prior five NBA Most Valuable Player awards.

Phoenix guard Steve Nash took the next two and outside play has grown in scale and importance since then.

"The game is changing. With no hand-checking, it makes it difficult," Beverley said.

Extending the perimeter threat forces defenders to guard more area, opening inside opportunities or allowing more three-point chances.

Shots from beyond the arc are on record pace - more than 30 per cent of all shots.

Up-tempo play produces more possessions and therefore more scoring chances in all games.

The Rockets, led by Harden with 28.2 points and an NBA-best 11.8 assists a game, take a league-high 39.8 three-point attempts a game, on pace to shatter their record average of 32.7 from 2014/15.

Defending champions Cleveland Cavaliers and the lowly Brooklyn Nets are also on record pace. It's enough to make even the most devoted fan of defence surrender.

"I would say it's looking like it is impossible," Nuggets coach Mike Malone said of defending.

"I don't know how you guard Russell Westbrook. With the rules and the respect he gets from the officials, it's almost impossible."

FiveThirtyEight.com found there have not been more 40-point games at this point in the season since the 1980s LA Lakers "Showtime" era.

"It may be that this season's jaw-dropping statistical feats are a product of all that evolution," wrote FiveThirtyEight.com's Neil Payne.

"We could just be witnessing the beginning of a trend towards ever-crazier numbers." - AFP

OTHER RESULTS

Minnesota 101 Dallas 92, NY Knicks 96 New Orleans 110.

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