As amazing as Russell Westbrook can be, the Oklahoma City Thunder are still far from certain in the 2015 NBA playoffs, losing 135-131 to the Dallas Mavericks which overly complicates things.
Yes, Westbrook had another triple double with 31 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists. Without him, the Thunder wouldn’t be in a position to make the postseason. Without him, they wouldn’t have been able to hang on for so long against the Mavericks and even take a lead late in the fourth. But Westbrook and those impressive numbers of his don’t tell the whole story.
Westbrook shot 10-of-32 from the field, including two tough 3-pointer in the final seconds when trying to tie the game (the Mavericks were leading 134-131). He had open players around him on the first shot and the second one after the offensive rebound. He ignored everybody and chose to take bad shots. Because that’s Westbrook. Not because of selfishness or hate of passing; it’s simply who he is, for better or worse.
And the turnovers. Six of them. And the bad defense. Westbrook has the potential to be an All-Defensive first team selection almost every season, but he gambles way too much, and loses focus way too much, getting lost in the rotations which leaves him guarding Chandler Parson on multiple possession which ended up deciding the game. Parsons finished with 22 points, 10-of-15 from the field, including some big baskets over a helpless Westbrook.
Another part of the problem is the Thunder giving up on their interior defense for the sake of acquiring Enes Kanter. Kanter is putting up huge numbers, scoring 30 points to go along with 16 rebounds. He is a huge success on that account. But the Thunder don’t have Serge Ibaka or Kendrick Perkins anymore. They need presence that helps deter teams from attacking the paint. Steven Adams isn’t enough. Kanter still doesn’t seem to know what he’s doing on the defensive end, hence the 72 points in the paint by the Mavericks.
The Mavericks haven’t clinched a playoff spot, but they will. This win doesn’t really change things for them. Still way ahead of the Thunder, still too far behind the Spurs, destined to finish 7th in the West, which means playing either the Grizzlies or the Houston Rockets in the first round of the postseason. No option is really promising. Nothing is in the West.
The Thunder (42-33), after the loss, are 1.5 games ahead of the Pelicans (40-34) for the final playoff spot in the West. Losing three of their last four games, they’ve pretty much allowed the Pelicans back into what seemed to be a lost race. And what remains for them isn’t easy: Memphis on the road before home games against Houston and San Antonio. The rest is a bit easier – Sacramento, on the road against Indiana, Portland and Minnesota (road). Nothing is guaranteed because as it turns out, triple doubles and incredible individual statistics don’t promise teams anything.