If the Oklahoma City Thunder have learned anything from this year’s NBA playoffs, it is the value of their All-Star point guard, Russell Westbrook. Since Westbrook’s season-ending knee injury, the Thunder have had trouble finding an offensive identity — unless you are one of those people who think Kevin Durant dribbling around and making amazing shots is an identity.
You can look at the Thunder’s postseason one of two ways. They have won five of their eight games in the playoffs thus far, or you can take the pessimistic route and say they have won two of their last five games in the playoffs.
For sake of the argument I am about to make, I will be alluding to the latter angle of the two.
The Thunder miss Westbrook. A few weeks ago, some Thunder fans criticized him for being a ball hog, being too selfish and taking too many shots from the almighty Durant (No sarcasm intended. Durant is, in fact, almighty).
But what we are seeing now in Westbrook’s absence is that the Thunder are lost without him. They have lost their top facilitator, maybe their only facilitator, and the Thunder are suffering without him. Every game has been a nail-biter in Westbrook’s absence. To be honest, it gets a little exhausting when the end of every single game is similar to a battle scene in the movie 300.
It certainly does not ease the pain of Thunder fans when TNT decides to put a camera on the injured Westbrook sitting in a suite during the middle of a game just to remind everyone of what the Thunder are missing. Thunder fans feel the equivalent of Barney Stinson being slapped in the face in How I Met Your Mother.
With all of that said, the Thunder are showing guts in their performance without Westbrook. They battle every night on a consistent basis. Durant is undoubtedly carrying the load offensively and he needs help, but if one or two more Thunder players can step up, then who knows how far they can go.
The Thunder are now in a 1-1 series with the Memphis Grizzlies, proving to be the most difficult obstacle of their season. Yes, even more difficult than adjusting to the James Harden trade I might add.
But this Thunder team is resilient. As long as they are still alive and fighting in these playoffs, it is hard to count them out — even with the plethora of problems they face trying to fill the void that Westbrook has left.