OKC Thunder: Russell Westbrook makes a difference

Thunder point guard missed last year’s series with Memphis. His presence helped the Thunder win Game 1 of this year’s showdown with the Grizzlies.
by Jenni Carlson Published: April 20, 2014

Later, he was seen grabbing at his thigh.

Who knows what happened. When asked how he felt, Westbrook revealed nothing.

“Yeah, I’m OK,” he said.

But clearly, Westbrook wasn’t the same player early in the second half. He missed a jumper, then clanked another. He turned the ball over. He missed a couple threes, then another jumper.

By the time he went to the bench, he had no points, one rebound, one assist and two turnovers in the quarter. Worse, he was struggling to stay in front of Mike Conley; the Memphis point guard got going and got his teammates going, too.

Westbrook sat in his customary spot at the end of the bench, but he had ice packs on both knees. At one point, he even went into the tunnel behind the bench with some of the Thunder’s medical personnel.

“Russell, as far as I know is fine,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. “This is the first that I’ve heard of it.”

Hard to believe that the coach didn’t know that one of his superstars spent some time being evaluated by the medical staff. This team doesn’t have a chance at winning an NBA title without Westbrook.

He did return to the game midway through the fourth quarter, and he played well. Not hair on fire, but pretty darn good. He got to the free-throw line, hit that crazy circus shot and helped the Thunder hold off the pesky Grizzlies.

Maybe the hitch in his gait and the double ice packs and the trip to the tunnel are nothing.

Because with Westbrook in the lineup and in playoff mode, this Thunder team sure is something.

Jenni Carlson: Jenni can be reached at 475-4125. Like her at facebook.com/JenniCarlsonOK, follow her at twitter.com/jennicarlson_ok or view her personality page at newsok.com/jennicarlson.

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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