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Jenni Carlson: Relax, Russell; let the game come to you

by Jenni Carlson Published: May 2, 2011

The Thunder is vowing that adjustments will be made in the second game of this playoff series against the Grizzlies.

Might I throw out a bit of advice?

Tell Russell Westbrook to relax.

The Thunder point guard has been wound too tight for the better part of two weeks. The result has been some less-than-stellar games in these playoffs.

During the first round against the Nuggets, he had seven turnovers one night, 30 points in 30 shots another night. Then in the Thunder's series-clinching win, he had a performance that was frankly painful to watch, an out-of-sorts, 3-of-15 night.

He wasn't quite so bad Sunday afternoon in the first game of the Western Conference semifinals, but commit seven turnovers and hit only 4 of 14 shots in the restricted zone near the basket, and it's a killer.

“I don't think he had the game that he would've liked to have had or we would want him to have,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said.

Still ...

“It's one game,” he said, “and we understand that.”

Still ...

Brooks might be looking at one game in this series, but really, this has become a trend with Westbrook in these playoffs. Unlike last season when he was so solid in the postseason, he is pressing this time around.

You see it in the unnecessary mistakes, like a drive Sunday that ended with Westbrook in no man's land and a desperation pass in the Grizzlies' hands.

Westbrook is going to turn the ball over. It happens to every point guard in the NBA. But committing seven turnovers is unacceptable.

Ball security is key.

“Definitely a concern,” Westbrook admitted Monday afternoon. “Just gotta get better at it.”

The same goes for finishing at the rim. Westbrook got to the basket with relative ease Sunday afternoon, but he missed 10 of 14 shots from close range.

“It was a good option,” Westbrook said of driving to the rim. “Sometimes I was kind of going too fast for my own good.”

Make no mistake — all of those shots weren't layups. Calling them layups would be selling short how tough they were. Any time you're driving the lane and shooting around Marc Gasol or Shane Battier or any other big body in the NBA, it's not exactly a layup.

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by Jenni Carlson
Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football...
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