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Oklahoma City Thunder: Reasons to believe Russell Westbrook will sit Thursday vs. Cleveland

RUSSELL WESTBROOK — Kyrie Irving’s absence and the opportunity to play only once in seven days are among the reasons to believe Oklahoma City’s point guard will sit in Cleveland and play Friday in Toronto.
by Darnell Mayberry Modified: March 20, 2014 at 12:30 pm •  Published: March 19, 2014

CHICAGO — Scott Brooks still hasn’t forgotten what happened to his team Sunday.

He’d like to.

But the Thunder coach refuses to blame an embarrassing home blowout defeat to Dallas on the absence of Russell Westbrook.

“The way we played (Sunday) night, I don’t think it would have mattered,” Brooks said. “We didn’t play well enough to win.”

With Westbrook reduced to a spectator watching from the bench in warm-ups, Dallas cruised to a 23-point victory. Westbrook was held out on the first night of a back-to-back to rest his surgically-repaired right knee.

It’s all part of a plan to monitor Westbrook’s minutes and the wear he puts on his knee the rest of the regular season.

“It’s tough,” Westbrook said of watching his team struggle Sunday without him. “But at the same time, I’ve got to do what’s right for my body and for my health.”

With the Thunder beginning another back-to-back set Thursday at Cleveland — the first of five remaining back-to-backs — the team will again rest Westbrook in one of the next two contests. Brooks on Wednesday declined to reveal whether Westbrook will sit against the Cavs or on Friday at Toronto.

There are reasons to believe it will be against Cleveland.

The Cavs are without All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving (left biceps injury), and could be without starting small forward Luol Deng (ankle) and key reserve Dion Waiters (hip). Since stunning the Thunder with a 10-point win inside Chesapeake Energy Arena on Feb. 26, Cleveland has lost six of nine and yielded 107 points in those losses.

All that to say Oklahoma City should be able to handle the Cavs without Westbrook.

Toronto could be a much tougher test. The Raptors were 37-29 and in third place in the East standings before Wednesday’s game at New Orleans.

More importantly, though, sitting Westbrook on Thursday will give him another three days of rest. The Thunder hasn’t played since Monday at Chicago, a game Westbrook also entered with three days in between contests after sitting out against the Mavs.

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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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