The Oklahoma City Thunder will have some hurdles to jump over during the final stretch of the season. Its schedule will test its endurance as it prepare themselves to play six back-to-back games over the final month of the season. In preparation for one of the toughest parts of their season, and the road to the playoffs, Thunder head coach Scott Brooks grabbed a lot of attention when he stated that the team will be sitting Russell Westbrook for the second game of back-to-backs. Brooks obviously does not want to overwork his star point guard, especially since he is just getting back to work after missing time with an injury.
The decision from Brooks is smart, but it is also a gamble. The Thunder is just starting to gel after going through a rough patch. It is a controversial move for sure, because removing Westbrook from the starting lineup takes away some much-needed bonding between him and Kevin Durant. Their chemistry was not a big problem during their unproductive stretches, but it surely was not all pretty. They have recently shown promise, but we will have to wait to see how it all plays out when Westbrook sits his first game. The ensuing aftermath math could be something out of horror movie, or it could be a Cinderella story. Either way, Brooks cannot afford to make move that well end up costing the Thunder the No. 1 overall seed in the Western Conference.
Over the past few weeks, Reggie Jackson has not been as productive as we have seen him at times, mostly at times when Westbrook is out of the lineup. Jeremy Lamb has honestly been bad for some time, but most importantly, since Westbrook’s second big return of the season. With Westbrook sitting out those second games of back-to-backs, you are asking Jackson and Lamb to turn on the jets, even though they are in the middles of one of the worst stretches of their season. It is a tough task for two young players in the spotlight. In no way am I saying that it could not be done, because high pressure calls for results in sports. It will be interesting to see how they respond when the time comes for Westbrook to step aside for a few games to close the season.
If I were the Thunder, I would be trying to do everything possible to ensure that the road to the championship will go through Loud City. People downplay the importance of home-court advantage during the NBA playoffs. The field is much more dangerous this time around. Teams that were not expected to make much noise over the course of the regular season have stepped it up, making an already tough conference even tougher. I do not know if the Thunder has the best chance to accomplish those goals with Westbrook on the sideline. I understand that his health is more important than anything, but he has not shown any signs of wear and tear. If it is not broken, then do not fix it is an appropriate phrase for this particular situation. Expect Westbrook to sit some games, giving Thunder fans a little cause for concern. No matter how the story ends, no one will be able to stop the Thunder — but themselves.