2013 NBA Playoffs: Can Oklahoma City Thunder Reach NBA Finals Without Russell Westbrook?

By Joseph Newsome
Mark D. Smith-US Presswire

The Oklahoma City Thunder won a close game one against the visiting Memphis Grizzlies in their semifinal series of the NBA Playoffs. Kevin Durant hit a jumper to put the Thunder up two with 17.9 seconds, and despite being down 12 at one point, Oklahoma City fought hard to stay in the all-important first game. However, can the Thunder continue to pull victories out of nowhere without All-Star guard Russell Westbrook?

Durant continues to lead the way in scoring during the postseason and is averaging 32.9 points per game so far. He led his team to victory once again, scoring six of the Thunder’s last seven baskets against Memphis in game one. His 35 points and 15 rebounds led both teams and his never-say-die attitude inspires his teammates to fight through adversity.

The Thunder struggled early on against the Grizzlies, and it looked as though the series may be headed toward an upset. Trading away James Harden also seemed to be coming back to haunt the Thunder as Westbrook sits out with his season-ending knee injury. The Thunder’s starters struggled to score and seemed to lack direction without Westbrook dictating tempo.

Kevin Martin, Reggie Jackson and Derek Fisher will all have to continue to play well as they try and fill in for Westbrook. Durant is a machine, but he can’t be the only one scoring for the Thunder. The Grizzlies got the best of the Thunder during the regular season, and Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph will look to get a huge win in game two Tuesday night.

The Grizzlies have outlasted the Denver Nuggets and Los Angeles Clippers despite finishing in fifth behind these two teams after the end of the regular season. Without Westbrook, the Thunder look like a team that may have a tough time finishing off a tough defensive team in Memphis. Even if they somehow manage to get past the Grizzlies in the semis, can they beat the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference Finals without a strong sidekick to Durant?

The Grizzlies will come out Tuesday night looking to take control like they did early on in game one. If Memphis can manage to win one in Oklahoma City, it will give them all the confidence and momentum as the series shifts to Tennessee.

Unfortunately for the Thunder, there is no way to forecast injuries. If this was the case they may have never gotten rid of Harden. Without Westbrook the Thunder are a different team; they’re a team that may not have such an easy road to the NBA Finals if that’s even where their postseason is headed.


Joe Newsome is a Denver Nuggets contributing writer for Rant Sports. Follow him on Twitter @josocah, check out his Facebook page and add him to your network on Google.



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