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Grizzlies' Tony Allen draws tough task of stopping Russell Westbrook

BY DARNELL MAYBERRY, Staff Writer, dmayberry@opubco.com Modified: May 12, 2011 at 8:47 pm •  Published: May 12, 2011

/articleid/3567427/1/pictures/1416299">Photo - Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook (0)dunks during game five of the Western Conference semifinals between the Memphis Grizzlies and the Oklahoma City Thunder in the NBA basketball playoffs at Oklahoma City Arena in Oklahoma City, Wednesday, May 11, 2011. Photo by Sarah Phipps, The Oklahoman
Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook (0)dunks during game five of the Western Conference semifinals between the Memphis Grizzlies and the Oklahoma City Thunder in the NBA basketball playoffs at Oklahoma City Arena in Oklahoma City, Wednesday, May 11, 2011. Photo by Sarah Phipps, The Oklahoman

“A lot of teams will do that with Russell, and you kind of pick your poison,” Brooks said. “They were going under screens and backing off and kind of promoting him to shoot the mid-range pull-up. And Russell can make that shot and he has all year long.”

Remember, though, that all this is nothing new for Westbrook and the Thunder.

It was Game 5 of last year's first-round series against the Los Angeles Lakers that 11-time All-Defensive Team member Kobe Bryant pushed Derek Fisher aside and accepted the challenge of defending the speedy Westbrook. L.A. had incredible success with the move. Westbrook averaged 21.8 points, 6.5 rebounds, 5.3 assists and just 1.5 turnovers on 55 percent shooting in the first four games. But in the final two, with Bryant smothering him, Westbrook's averages dipped nearly across the board to 18 points, five rebounds, 7.5 assists and four turnovers on 33.3 percent shooting.

But the Lakers were a veteran bunch rolling toward a title. And Westbrook is now a year older, a year wiser.

The biggest key, however, just might be fore Westbrook's teammates to alleviate some pressure. Sefolosha, who is 1-for-7 from 3-point range in the series, must find his shooting stroke to space the floor; especially with the smaller Conley defending him. Durant, meanwhile, should be in attack mode from the get-go if Young again starts on him. Durant's scoring average, field-goal percentage and 3-point percentage are all 10 percent below his average with Allen on the court in this series, according to NBA.com's StatsCube. With Young on the court in this series, Durant's points, field-goal percentage and plus-minus are all up per 36 minutes.

But everything starts with Westbrook setting the tone and winning his individual matchup.

“Russell's really good when he's aggressive and when he's not only looking to attack but (looking for) pull-ups and push-aheads,” Brooks said. “When he does all those things, he's a special player.”

And there might not be a wrinkle known to man that can stop him.


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