Blog Entry

Westbrook and Durant get it done for OKC

Posted on: May 10, 2011 3:12 am
Edited on: May 10, 2011 3:34 am
Posted by Royce Young

Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook went from a superduo to a chemistry question mark this postseason. The transition was amazing. Because of a couple questionable shots from Westbrook while Durant didn't get the ball in key stretches, there was speculation on whether the two could could co-exist. People wondered if they were fighting in the locker room, or if there was an alpha dog battle taking place.

Some have nicknamed Westbrook's erratic, seemingly selfish play "hero mode" in Oklahoma City, and that's kind of what it is. He tries to take over and ignores the other four guys on his team. That's fine sometimes when Kobe, Wade or LeBron does it. But since Westbrook has the two words "point guard" attached to his name, and Durant on his wing, he gets punished for it. Sometimes rightfully so, sometimes unfairly.

But in this game where the Thunder outlasted the Grizzlies 133-123 in a triple-overtime classic, it took Durant and Westbrook co-existing near perfectly for the Thunder to pull themselves out of an 18-point hole and even the series at 2-2.

Westbrook finished with 40 on 15-33 shooting and Durant checked in with 35 on 9-20. Westbrook was 10-11 from the line and Durant 16-18.

Some might look at those attempts from Westbrook and assume it was more of the same from him. They might assume he hogged the ball and froze Durant out. He sort of did, but he had to in this game. The Grizzlies weren't going to let Durant beat them. Memphis was putting it all on the already heavy-weighted shoulders of Westbrook, and daring him to answer.

The Thunder just looked awful the first 16 minutes. It was like the last 20 minutes of Game 3 somehow were transplanted into Game 4. The offense was pathetic, the defense was meh, and the team just wasn’t doing anything right. The Thunder turned it over seven times in the first quarter, shot 6-16 and then started the second quarter 0-7. It was looking like a disaster was brewing for the Thunder and that this series was inching closer to a conclusion.

As I watched it, I could only think one thing: OKC needs Russell Westbrook to go hero here. For all the criticism he’s endured, for all the discussion he’s generated and for all the negative stuff that’s been said about him, the Thunder desperately needed Westbrook to bail them out. It started when Daequan Cook hit two big 3s — which seem meaningless now, but at the time were HUGE — and then Westbrook started attacking. And attacking. And attacking. He scored nine points the last five minutes of the second and the Thunder got the message. They fell in step behind Westbrook and finally woke up.

That’s the thing: The Thunder has to have that Westbrook. He’s crucial. The challenge for him is realizing when and where to turn it on and off. Tonight, he turned it on just in time. Without that second quarter spark, we’re not all staying up until who knows when watching the craziest playoff game this year.

Now, some of the negative side to the argument started creeping back in late in the fourth when Westbrook took a questionable long jumper, turned it over and then was blocked by Marc Gasol with a few seconds left. Durant took only one shot the entire fourth, but it seemed excusable to a degree because Westbrook was coming up big. Like I said, though, finding that “off” switch was tough for him because he had carried the Thunder to that point, and to hand it off was difficult.

Same story in the overtimes. Westbrook was the offensive focus for the Thunder and Durant played second banana. I’d have to re-watch but on first look, it just seemed like the Grizzlies intended to take away Durant and force Westbrook’s hand. If Westbrook wasn’t up to the challenge, OKC loses this game in the first OT. But he stepped up and didn’t settle for bad shots. He attacked and, in some cases, created. He did almost everything right and the result was a major Thunder win.

The Grizzlies know how to play Durant. Again, they want it to be on Westbrook. But you can only hold a player of Durant's caliber down so long. Eventually he's going to shake loose. And he did, scoring six straight points to ice Memphis in the third overtime.

OKC has to have Durant and Westbrook working together, feeding off each other. Durant is a pretty remarkable star in that he's fine slinking back while Westbrook takes over. He may not love it on the inside, but nothing on his exterior says he has a problem with it. The Thunder's tandem came up big for them in Game 4. They had to. They learned a little from Game 3's transgressions and did a bit better. Or, at least, just enough.


Since: May 10, 2011
Posted on: May 10, 2011 12:44 pm

Westbrook and Durant get it done for OKC

I like Westbrook, but I must say that I thought near the end of the game that he was being a ball hog and waiting too long running down the shot clock and then taking too many hasty ill advised shots without getting his teammates involved. I think they could've won this game without going to overtime if he had distributed the ball well. Charles Barkeley said it best when he said there is something wrong when the number one scorer in the league doesn't touch the ball for so long, or words to that effect. He mentioned the number of minutes and I think it was 9 that Durant did not get the ball. I personally think it hurts a team for the point guard to not keep them more involved in the game than Westbrook does when he never passes and over and over he brings the ball down and stands there dribbling until the shot clock is around 6 seconds and then make his own move. He was just lucky that he made more than he missed. We all know that doesn't always happen. They will not win this series on his shoulders alone. It takes a team.

Since: Mar 6, 2011
Posted on: May 10, 2011 12:34 pm

Westbrook and Durant get it done for OKC

I would partly disagree with this piece. Westbrook doesnt HAVE to be an erratic and undisciplined gunner. He is the point guard and ergo, he should be making durant more involved. Thats his job.  The Griz lost because Conley fouled out. Conley is a big part of the Griz story. The real key is turnovers and defense. In post season, getting stops is vital. Memphis extended this game because Westbrook couldnt orchestrate the half court. Part of the blame is, indeed, on Durant and some on Scotty Brooks.  Hollins has less talent, but is going to win this series. And its because of Conley and his control of the offense. Props also to Shane Battier. Big big game.

Since: Jan 20, 2010
Posted on: May 10, 2011 11:05 am

Westbrook and Durant get it done for OKC

You're on point CTurbo; Kevin Durant definitely doesn't work hard enough to free himself late in games. I think Durant wants the superstar tag but doesn't want take all of the responsibilties that goes with it. It's funny but noe says anything about Derrick Rose in chicago hogging the ball. It's like Kobe and Shaq in L.A Russell's more of the Alpha dog, but Durant has more talent, if he had Westbrook's heart Durant would be a taller version of Kobe.   

Since: Dec 18, 2006
Posted on: May 10, 2011 9:13 am

Westbrook and Durant get it done for OKC

Westbrook isn't even LOOKING to pass the ball though. The only thing he sees is the basket and the defender -- his passes are bail outs. He's trying way to hard and not letting the game come to him. As a result, Durant is forcing up shots because who knows when he'll get the ball back. 

Since: Jul 4, 2010
Posted on: May 10, 2011 8:01 am

Westbrook and Durant get it done for OKC

I'm tired of Westbrook getting blamed for everything. Yes, sometimes he shoots too much but...
In this particular game, I don't blame Westbrook for having 13 more shots than Durant. Yes Durant is the better closer, but he needs to do a better job of moving without the ball. Many possessions during the 4th quarter and first two overtimes he would just stand there and watch Westbrook dribble while Battier smothered him. Some of those times he wasn't even trying to get open. That's why he was for the most part invisible for long stretches. YES he needs to touch the ball more, but he has to fight to get open. He has to command the ball. He does not always do that, and tonight was a great example. Tonight, OKC needed Westbrook to step up and take those shots and get those 40 points, and he did. He(Westbrook) didn't take THAT many bad shots either. He and Durant both shot 45% so it's not like Durant was on fire and he was playing "keep away" from him. For the record, late in the game when he DID get the ball to Durant, it resulted in two bad turnovers in a row so it's not like Durant is automatic points when he touches the ball. In fact, Durant had almost twice as many turnovers as Westbrook did despite touching the ball only about 50% as much. Westbrook has 3 turnovers in 51 minutes while playing through foul trouble most of the game. I'd say he played a damn good game.
I think Shane Battier deserves the credit for Durant only getting 20 shots, not Westbrook.

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