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Oklahoma City Thunder: Russell Westbrook’s dilemma

by Berry Tramel Modified: April 12, 2013 at 6:17 pm •  Published: June 15, 2012

Russell Westbrook was mostly awful in the first half of Game 2 Thursday night. His numbers: nine points on 2-of-10 shooting, three assists, no turnovers. Westbrook’s final numbers were more presentable: 27 points on 10-of-26 shooting, seven assists, two turnovers.

But let’s look exactly at Westbrook’s plight. He’s in a lineup with two defensive specialists, Thabo Sefolosha and Kendrick Perkins, plus Serge Ibaka and Kevin Durant. Serge is a solid offensive player but isn’t terribly consistent. That leaves Durant, the league’s greatest offensive player.

But in Game 2, LeBron James took it as a personal challenge to shut down Durant. Nobody can do that for long stretches, but nobody is more equipped to do it in short short stretches than is LeBron. Plus LeBron was coming off a Game 1 in which 1) Durant made a case for world’s greatest player; and 2) Heat coach Erik Spoelstra had the bright idea of NOT putting LeBron on Durant.

So LeBron was sufficiently motivated to mummify Durant, and did. Durant had darn few touches while the Thunder fell behind 18-2.

So what was Westbrook to do? He’s got a stagnant offense with little options. So by far the Thunder’s best option was Westbrook attacking the basket and taking a shot. Against the Heat, that’s not a high percentage play, since Miami has Dwyane Wade and Mario Chalmers, both of whom are capable of at least staying in front of Westbrook. Not a high percentage play, but clearly the Thunder’s best play under the circumstances.

That’s why Scotty Brooks has to react more quickly. Get James Harden in the game earlier. Go to the small lineup, which is much more effective against Miami than is OKC’s big lineup.

Westbrook did not play well in Game 2. But there were reasons that weren’t his doing.


by Berry Tramel
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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