There's a fundamental question the Los Angeles Lakers must ask themselves.
Is a playoff berth really worth it?
If it's Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder that await in a potential first-round matchup, the answer, regardless of what the Lakers are professionally obligated to say publicly, seems to be an overwhelming no.
Westbrook again had his way with his hometown team, the franchise which he grew up a fan of, in the Thunder's wire-to-wire 122-105 win on Tuesday night inside Chesapeake Energy Arena.
The Thunder point guard scored a game-high 37 points with a team-high 10 rebounds, five assists and two steals against just one turnover. He made 15 of 29 shots in 36 minutes, continuing what has long been a troubling trend for the Lakers.
They just can't stop Westbrook.
In four games against LA this season, Westbrook averaged 28.5 points, 6.8 rebounds and nine assists. Most significant, the Thunder took the season series three games to one.
And in this final meeting Westbrook was as good as he's ever been, dismissing Lakers star Kobe Bryant as a supposed defensive stopper and destroying LA from start to finish.
“He was getting opportunities to get to his spot on the floor where he can make (shots),” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks.
Westbrook took complete control of the first half, applying pressure with a steady stream of unstoppable slashes to the rim and post-ups that ended in turnaround bank shots. Westbrook scored 13 points in the opening period, marking the fourth straight game in which he's registered at least 10 points in the first quarter.
He's now scored at least 10 points in six of the last seven games and is averaging 12.9 first-quarter points over that same span.
If the Lakers, 2½ games out of the eighth playoff seed and just three games back of Houston for the seventh spot, do indeed clinch, they could be forced to deal with the wrath of Westbrook for, at the very least, another four games.
Led by Westbrook, the Thunder opened a 37-28 lead after one quarter Tuesday night, the most points the Thunder has scored in any first quarter this season. By halftime, Westbrook had dumped in 19 points with eight rebounds.