The Oklahoma City Thunder had great news, as Russell Westbrook returned Thursday night against the Miami Heat. His teammate, Kevin Durant, has been on a tear in his absence and has even been mentioned, rather frequently, as the leading candidate in the NBA MVP race. It had to be bitter sweet for Westbrook, as the guard has missed the majority of this season due to injuries.
Healthy and ready to retake his place in the Thunder rotation, Westbrook had a modest outing against Miami with 16 points and five rebounds. A slow start is expected after a long layoff, but the Thunder fell rather hard to the Heat, 103-81. Sunday did not get much better for Westbrook and Oklahoma City with the Los Angeles Clippers visiting town. LA dropped a whopping 125 points, as they won the offensive shootout 125-117.
Westbrook again struggled, going 3-13 from the field for 13 points, including an ugly and ill-advised jump shot late in the game. Durant, on the other hand, had another incredible game with 42 points and 10 assists; it was Durant’s first 35-plus point 10-plus assist game in his career. Now, that is all fine and dandy, but the Thunder will not win the championship unless Westbrook reestablishes himself in the rotation and starting five.
What will be the more interesting storyline going forward will be how well Durant and Westbrook coexist with one another, especially considering that Durant has played most of the season without Westbrook. Both will have to learn how to play alongside one another and to share the basketball. It will be a handful of games before Westbrook feels comfortable again, but I do know this, if the Thunder want to win the championship, giving up 125 points will not cut it! Along with building chemistry, Durant and Westbrook will have to adopt a defensive mindset, because teams like the heat and Indiana Pacers will bring the defensive heat.
I will let Oklahoma City’s recent poor play slide for now, but if it continues, it might be time for the Thunder to worry.
Shane Phillips is an NBA Writer for RantSports.com. Follow Shane on Twitter @ShaneRantNBA, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google. You can also email Shane at ShaneRantNBA@gmail.com.