Oklahoma City Thunder: Can Russell Westbrook get the best of Tony Parker and the Spurs?

Russell Westbrook can continue his march toward the undisputed title of best player at his position if he can help lead the shorthanded Thunder past the Spurs and into the NBA Finals for the second time in three years.
by Darnell Mayberry Published: May 18, 2014

SAN ANTONIO — Russ, you get Tony Parker now and the Spurs. What are your thoughts on that matchup?

That was a question posed to Russell Westbrook shortly after he had just helped the Thunder advance to the Western Conference Finals.

“Umm,” Westbrook responded. “The Spurs, or Tony Parker?”

Both, the reporter said.

“Well, the Spurs is a great team,” Westbrook answered. “They definitely have been on the road and done a great job of playing team basketball. I’m looking forward to it. It should be fun.”

No mention of Parker.

No coincidence.

Westbrook will do his best to dismiss Parker again in Game 1 on Monday night, and by the time the series is over the Thunder point guard’s goal is to send Parker and the Spurs to the same place he sent Mike Conley and his Memphis Grizzlies and Chris Paul and his Los Angeles Clippers.

Home.

“Getting the best at somebody at our position is winning the game,” said Thunder reserve point guard Reggie Jackson.

Westbrook can continue his march toward the undisputed title of best player at his position if he can help lead the shorthanded Thunder past the Spurs and into the NBA Finals for the second time in three years.

He enters the West Finals playing the best basketball of his career, averaging personal postseason bests in points, rebounds, assists, free-throw attempts and free-throw percentage. He’s posted three triple-doubles already in these playoffs and on three other occasions has flirted with finishing games with that same feat.

“The numbers probably say that he’s right there,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks when asked if this is the best Westbrook has played. “Just the tempo of his game and the speed of his game and his leadership is obviously improved over the years. Like I said many times, Russell plays hard and he plays to win the game. And his leadership has really taken off the last three or four years.”

Westbrook’s will to win has been felt from the start of this playoff run. Opposing coaches have marveled at his ability to energize his team. Opposing players have been powerless to stop him.

After Westbrook captained the Thunder to a pivotal Game 2 win against the Clippers, Paul told a room full of reporters that Westbrook played harder than all of the Clippers combined.

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by Darnell Mayberry
OKC Thunder Senior Reporter
Darnell Mayberry grew up in Langston, Okla. and is now in his third stint in the Sooner state. After a year and a half at Bishop McGuinness High, he finished his prep years in Falls Church, Va., before graduating from Norfolk State University in...
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