Russell Westbrook just completed one of the best months in NBA history.
The Thunder guard was dominant and impressive – often times in the same possession. He finished February with three-consecutive triple-doubles and averaged 31.2 points per game, 10.3 assists and 9.1 assists in the 12 Oklahoma City games.
And two-consecutive losses.
And regardless of whether Westbrook will be with the team when it plays at the Lakers Sunday afternoon, one thing is pretty evident:
Westbrook, for as good as he is, needs Kevin Durant. And vice versa.
A season ago, Durant led the Thunder in a charge up the standings with a January performance that helped Durant win the MVP, doing it without Westbrook. And this February, without Durant for seven games, Westbrook put a charge into the Thunder’s season and life into an MVP candidacy.
With less than 3 seconds left Friday night, Westbrook was face-down on the court for a few moments after getting hit in the side of the head with an elbow from teammate Andre Roberson. Westbrook did get up and finish the game but he was not available for comment after. Coach Scott Brooks didn’t comment on Westbrook’s condition either, but ESPN and others said Westbrook was taken to a Portland area medical facility for evaluation and it was not known if he traveled with the team to Los Angeles.
More on that later.
The injuries this season have been extensive. Westbrook played just one November game and has played 45 of the team’s 59 games. Durant has played just 27 games.
More on the Thunder’s future now. Certainly without Westbrook, and the currently injured Durant, the Thunder have little chance for success. You only have to look as far as November to see proof of that. With one or the other, this is a playoff team, but without both, there will be no playoff run or ultimate success.
You only have to look as far as Thursday and Friday for proof of that.
Westbrook had 40 points, 13 rebound and 11 assists Friday night in 37 minutes, going 14-of-32 and taking only one 3-pointer. But against Portland, a top-four team in the Western Conference that wasn’t enough. Against Phoenix, Westbrook got a triple-double, but needed 38 shots to get there. He played 43 minutes and made just 1-of-10 3-pointers in the overtime loss.
Twenty points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists against Indiana – no problem. Twenty-one points, 17 assists and eight rebounds against Denver – no problem and at Charlotte where Westbrook had 33 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds – no problem. He’s five rebounds from five-consecutive triple-doubles.
But Indiana, Charlotte and Denver aren’t quality competition. Westbrook is good enough to win those games by himself. It takes stars to win at Portland and at Phoenix.
Westbrook and the Thunder get a bit of break with a Sunday game at the lowly Lakers and then at home Wednesday against the pitiful 76ers. Durant won’t play against the Lakers and probably won’t be ready to go against Philadelphia back in Oklahoma City. OKC could probably get away without playing Westbrook, if need be, in either game. Perhaps these two games come at just the right time.
However, the playoffs are coming up. Westbrook has been phenomenal. Hard to imagine him being able to play any better.
Harder to imagine the Thunder doing much better without both their stars.