Game 2 of the Western Conference quarterfinals started very well for the Oklahoma City Thunder. The team got out to a 35-26 lead at the end of the first quarter, thanks to a hot start from Russell Westbrook.
The Houston Rockets narrowed the margin in the second quarter but Oklahoma City still held a 68-62 lead at halftime.
In the third quarter, the Rockets continued to chip away at the Thunder lead and only trailed by three entering the fourth quarter.
Normally, this would be considered Russell Westbrook’s time. The fiery point guard loves big moments and this was the biggest moment of the long season. However, Westbrook was dreadful in the fourth quarter, shooting 4-18 from the field and sending his team into a tailspin that led to their eventual defeat.
The blame cannot squarely be placed on Westbrook’s shoulders. Shooting guard Victor Oladipo finished with 11 points on 4-14 shooting and Steven Adams failed to show up for the game at all, finishing with five points and seven rebounds and fouling out in the fourth quarter.
The difference is those two players are not the leading candidate for this year’s NBA Most Valuable Player award. Westbrook did finish with an impressive stat line, recording 51 points, 13 assists, and 10 rebounds, becoming the first player in playoff history to record a 50 point triple-double.
However, those numbers are deceiving.
The number that most accurately defines Westbrook’s erratic night was his field goal percentage. He shot 17-43 in the game, good for 39 percent but only made four field goals in the fourth quarter on 18 attempts.
The Thunder were still very much in the game with a few minutes left, but due to Westbrook’s inefficiency, they were unable to retake the lead. With under five minutes to play in the game, Westbrook decided to shoot the ball almost every single time he brought it up the court.
Instead of looking for open teammates, he continually drove the ball into the lane and fired off a contested mid-range jumper. Westbrook also missed multiple wide-open three-pointers in crunch time.
When Westbrook is on his game, he is almost unstoppable, but he becomes a detriment to his team when he tries to do too much.
Westbrook is a superstar and perhaps this year’s Most Valuable Player, but he tried to do too much last night. Instead of moving the ball around to try and create open looks and wear down the Rockets’ defense he took it upon himself to try and shoot his team back into the game.
That decision played right into the Rockets’ hands. With one of the best ball defenders in the league in Patrick Beverley relentlessly following Westbrook around the court, the rest of the Rockets defense was given time to rest and get their energy back on defense.
Through two games Russell has shot 23-66 from the field. That number is just over 33 percent and has kept the Thunder from winning either of the first two games in the series.
With the series going back to Oklahoma City for two games, it is imperative that Westbrook finds his shooting touch and starts to trust his teammates. Through the first two games, it showed that Westbrook has little faith in the players surrounding him.
If the Thunder want to win this series, Westbrook must involve those around him. If he is unable to do so, his season will be over in the next three games.
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