The Oklahoma City Thunder have been a force the entirety of the NBA season, giving the team and its fans championship expectations. High hopes that may prove to be just as fragile as the knee of standout point guard Russell Westbrook.
The Thunder are in the midst of a first-round playoff series against the young and equally dangerous attack posed by the Houston Rockets. Up two games to none in the best-of-seven series, Oklahoma City seemed poised and prepared to burn through the Western Conference playoffs and into a probable NBA Finals rematch with the Miami Heat.
The news out of the Thunder camp on the eve of game three couldn’t have possibly been more devastating.
Westbrook suffered a lateral meniscus tear during a needless exchange with Rockets’ guard Patrick Beverley in game two. Requiring surgery, his return this season is unlikely.
Looking to simply call timeout late in the second quarter, Westbrook charged towards Beverley, who made a move toward the ball looking for a steal. Westbrook had ample time to signal for timeout, but looked to send a message to Beverley, who had been doing his best to frustrate the Thunder and Westbrook.
A simple flash of immaturity led to an exchange that seemed harmless at the time, but may prove costly to this Oklahoma City squad.
Westbrook’s season is likely over, and he may have taken his team’s championship hopes with it.
Westbrook has shown exceptional durability during his basketball career, having not missed a start since high school. This is a surprising fact given the style of basketball exhibited. A dynamic scorer all season (24 points per game), Westbrook makes things happen pushing the ball in transition and cutting through the lane.
His current NBA longest-active streak of games played will come to an end Saturday, a run that lasted 439 regular season and playoff games. Basketball’s current iron man has shown that even he isn’t indestructible, a lesson learned by the Thunder at a time when Westbrook’s contributions would have shown to be irreplaceable.
Westbrook’s shot at an NBA ring likely ended for another year Wednesday night. A season, with such high-hopes, dashed in a moment of frustration, trying to signal for timeout.