When the Thunder needed a basket in its NBA playoff series against the Lakers, it was Russell Westbrook who often supplied a spark.
Veteran point guard Derek Fisher struggled so much while guarding Westbrook that Lakers star Kobe Bryant asked coach Phil Jackson if he could defend Westbrook in Game 5.
Similar to Utah’s Deron Williams, New Orleans’ Chris Paul, Boston’s Rajon Rondo and Chicago’s Derrick Rose, Westbrook has evolved into a point guard capable of taking over a game.
Even though he plays on a team that features Kevin Durant, the league’s leading scorer this season, does Westbrook feel there will be times in 2010-2011 that he needs to be Oklahoma City’s No. 1 scoring option?
"Not at all,” Westbrook said. "First and foremost, I’m a point guard. Kevin is an unbelievable scorer, one of the best scorers in this game. You have to give guys with great talent an opportunity (to score).”
With Ron Artest blanketing Durant, Westbrook took advantage of his matchup to average 20.5 points in the first-round playoff series. He shot 47.3 percent, but his assists dipped slightly (6.0). He might have to sacrifice being a facilitator but can carry more of the scoring load if needed.
"I’m going to continue to play my role,” Westbrook said. "But when the game gets a little whacky, I’ll do what I can to help my team.”
That’s how most point guards approach the game. They prefer an assist to a basket. That was evident several times this season when Westbrook and Durant had two-on-none fast breaks. In front, Westbrook stopped near the opponent’s free-throw line and lobbed a pass to Durant for an uncontested slam dunk.