Taking stock of the Thunder point guard’s performances against the Grizzlies:
Game 1: Sunday, May 1
Westbrook scores 29 points on 9-for-23 shooting with eight rebounds, six assists and seven turnovers. He attempted two more shots than Kevin Durant in a 114-101 loss.
“I have a huge problem with him taking more shots than Kevin Durant. And this isn’t the first time this has happened. In Game 4, the first closeout game at Denver, 30 shots to 18 shots, Trust me, there are people in the Oklahoma City organization who have a huge problem with this and realize this is how they could lose this series. And I’m going to make the case that the worst thing that happened to Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder this year was that Derrick Rose … was the runaway MVP. Because young Russell watched this and said, ‘I want me some of that.’” — ESPN First Take analyst Skip Bayless
Game 2: Tuesday, May 3
Westbrook scores 24 points on 9-for-20 shooting with six assists, three steals and four turnovers. He again attempted two more shots than Durant, but this time the Thunder won, 111-102.
“On a night when Oklahoma City’s postseason hopes hung in the balance, Russell Westbrook came up big. Those anxious early minutes became a distant memory by the final minutes of this playoff game. … Westbrook was superb. He scored 24 points, dished out six assists and played the type of controlled yet dynamic game that his team needed from him. What’s more, the NBA’s most overanalyzed point guard wasn’t the only Thunder point guard to have a big night. Eric Maynor scored 15 points on 6-of-7 shooting. If the Thunder can get this kind of play out of its point guards, it has a chance not only to win this Western Conference semifinal but also to still be playing in June. No joke. These guys were that good Tuesday night.” — The Oklahoman columnist Jenni Carlson
Game 3: Saturday, May 7
Westbrook scores 23 points on 7-for-22 shooting with six rebounds, 12 assists and seven turnovers. The Thunder blows a 13-point fourth-quarter lead before losing 101-93 in overtime.
“Coach Lionel Hollins gave (O.J.) Mayo the job of defending Russell Westbrook, who had torched the Grizzlies and Mike Conley for 13 points in the third quarter when the Thunder were threatening to run away and hide with an unrelenting double-digit lead. Mayo stuck to Westbrook like white on rice. He fought over screens and through them. He was in Westbrook’s face every time he tried to turn a corner, practically inside his uniform each time he attempted a shot. In the fourth quarter and overtime, Westbrook went just 1-for-7 from the field and scored only four points.” — NBA.com’s Fran Blinebury
Game 4: Monday, May 9
Westbrook scores a game-high 40 points on 15-of-33 shooting with five rebounds, five assists, three steals, two blocks and three turnovers. Westbrook played 51 minutes in the Thunder’s 133-123 triple-overtime win.
“Russell Westbrook — the Thunder’s sometimes unstoppable, other times unwatchable point guard — had shots to win the game at the end of regulation and second overtime but missed both jumpers and finished 15 for 33 from the field for a game-high 40 points. The UCLA product alternated between creating incredible plays and inexcusable possessions, and if it’s possible to frustrate while scoring 40, Westbrook did it, because he couldn’t stop trying to close the game — even though he’s not Oklahoma City’s best closer. That title belongs to Durant.” — CBSSports.com’s Gary Parrish
Game 5: Monday, May 9
Westbrook scores 11 points on 4-for-10 shooting with three rebounds, six assists and three turnovers in just 25 minutes as the Thunder cruises to a 99-72 blowout win.
“The national debate on whether Oklahoma City guard Russell Westbrook shoots too much looks like it could continue right on into the Western Conference finals. And if that’s the case … is it really a debate? Westbrook, who joined Kevin Durant in the NBA All-Star Game this season, is a point guard who, at the very least, is unafraid to shoot. Through the first four games of the Memphis series, Westbrook had fired up 98 shots. That’s 15 more than Durant, the league scoring champ. So anytime things have gone wrong, as they did in the Thunder’s Game 1 and Game 3 losses to Memphis, Westbrook’s willingness to fire at all times has come under fire. The reality is that Westbrook is the Thunder’s second-best scoring option and that Durant, at least in this series, is guarded by superior defenders. Whether it’s Tony Allen or Sam Young or Shane Battier, there’s always one Memphis player right up in Durant’s jersey. That leaves Westbrook’s ability to attack the basket as a pretty good option.” — Dallas Morning News columnist Tim Cowlishaw
Game 6: Friday, May 13
Westbrook is phenomenal in the first half, scoring or assisting on 17 of the Thunder’s final 19 points of the second quarter to open up a 10-point halftime lead. But the offense goes cold in the second half, scoring just 29 points over the final 24 minutes. Westbrook finishes with 27 points on 11-for-22 shooting with three rebounds, four assists, two steals and five turnovers. Durant struggles, scoring just 11 points on 3-for-14 shooting and going 1-for-9 from 3-point range.
“Durant didn’t shoot well, but can somebody get him the ball in his spots? Durant was passive and took (too) many 3s, but part of a (point) guard’s job is to help his guys get to their spots and get ’em the damn ball. Westbrook is a spectacular player (with) incredible attributes; but too many possessions where Durant doesn’t get a touch. Hard to get a rhythm when you’re getting half as many shots as you should. Get some passes to set (you) up early, it becomes much easier. But that wasn’t the case.” — ESPN NBA analyst Michael Wilbon
BY DARNELL MAYBERRY