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Russell Westbrook is the reason Thunder still has hope

by Jenni Carlson Modified: May 22, 2011 at 12:56 am •  Published: May 22, 2011

The criticism of Russell Westbrook is sure to return.

For one night, he silenced the critics and the haters that dominated the past couple days, but the Thunder point guard is sure to do something or not do something at some point in the next couple games that will have folks yammering again.

But when that happens, remember this — Westbrook is the reason that Oklahoma City has a chance to come back and win the Western Conference Finals.

Sure, things look gloomy after a scintillating Saturday at the Oklahoma City Arena turned sour.

Mavs 93, Thunder 87.

But if you're seeking hope after Dallas took a 2-1 lead in the series and stole back that road game Oklahoma City snagged two nights ago, Westbrook is your guy. He can dominate this series, and he might've just realized it Saturday night.

He went into beast mode late in Game 3, beating Jason Kidd or J.J. Barea or just about any other Maverick off the dribble, then assaulting the rim despite the likes of Tyson Chandler and Brendan Haywood patrolling the paint.

“Just trying to attack,” Westbrook said. “Just trying to stay in attack mode and trying find us a way to get the clock stopped or get to the line.”

Trying to maybe win the darn thing in the process.

Listen, the Thunder fell behind by 23 points in the first half of this game. It was an inexplicable lack of effort and intensity. A team that looked so sharp, so locked in only 48 hours before scored only 12 points in the first quarter.

Twelve.

Everything that happened late might've been window dressing on a catastrophe, but that doesn't change the fact that Westbrook was getting just about anything he wanted.

“He's a great player,” Thunder guard Thabo Sefolosha said. “I think all the talk about Russell's got to stop.”

It should.

It probably won't.

Westbrook has become the most analyzed and scrutinized player in the NBA. Everyone from Charles Barkley to Skip Bayless has an opinion on everything the guy does.

Westbrook has been nit-picked more than an elementary school classroom during a head lice outbreak.

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by Jenni Carlson
Columnist
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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