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Grizzlies don't have answer for Russell Westbrook

Once again, fans and analysts are going after Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook. Get off him, writes columnist Berry Tramel. Memphis has two players that can slow down Kevin Durant, but no answer at all for Westbrook.
by Berry Tramel Published: May 10, 2011

Russell Westbrook took 33 shots Monday night in the Memphis Marathon. Kevin Durant took 20.

You know what that means. Here we go again.

Why does Westbrook shoot so much? Why does he crave the spotlight? Why does he feel like he has to be the man?

Crazed fans, we can forgive. But NBA veterans, from the likes of Chuck Barkley and Kenny Smith and Mike Fratello? Busting Westbrook even after he was the central hero in one of the most thrilling games in NBA history? Wondering why Durant wasn't getting more shots than was his point guard.

Are they not watching the games?

To quote Strother Martin in "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid", “Morons. I've got morons on my team.”

The Thunder has regained control of this rousing Western Conference semifinal against Memphis, armed again with homecourt advantage in a 2-2 series.

And Westbrook is the No. 1 reason. The Thunder has a favorable mismatch with Westbrook. It does not have such an edge with Durant.

Did you notice Durant standing free on the wing Monday night, waving for the ball?

Neither did I. Durant wasn't open. Hasn't been open much in this series, courtesy of hound dogs Shane Battier and Tony Allen. There are maybe 10 defenders in the league who can frustrate Durant, and the Grizzlies have two of them.

Durant still has played wonderfully. Averaged 29 points and shot 45.8 percent. But nothing comes easy, not with Battier and Allen on the case.

Meanwhile, Memphis has no answer for Westbrook. Mike Conley is game but overmatched. O.J. Mayo is athletic but not always fundamental. Greivis Vasquez doesn't have a prayer.

“When Russell has a good matchup, I want him to attack,” Thunder coach Scotty Brooks said.

That was the difference between Games 3 and 4. In Game 3, the Thunder offense stagnated, with lots of Westbrook dribbling beyond the arc. I think he was trying too hard to get Durant involved in the offense. Trying too hard to satisfy the demands of those who think 21st-century NBA point guards should have names like Sparky Grober, wear tube socks to their knees and attempt a shot about once a week.

In Game 4, Durant was no more open than in Game 3, when he made 10 of 24 shots. But in Game 4, Westbrook said, sorry, Sparky, and went to the basket.

Attacked. Attacked. Attacked. Attacked so much, he got both Conley and Mayo in foul trouble; both fouled out late in the first overtime. Westbrook kept attacking throughout all three overtimes, and by game's end still was running around like a pogo stick while everyone else on the court was gassed.

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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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