By beating the Phoenix Suns 109-97, Russell Westbrook has gotten the Oklahoma City Thunder a step closer towards clinching a spot in the 2015 NBA playoffs.
As incredible as Westbrook has been for the last couple of months, the Thunder are still not certain of their postseason berth. They are now 2.5 games ahead of the New Orleans Pelicans while the Suns, losing three in a row, have fallen even further behind. They’re not too bummed about it, pretty much giving up on the season the day of the trade deadline, but coming so close two years in a row and missing out has to hurt at some level.
The Suns had the Thunder put away with a 20-point lead in the second quarter, but Russell Westbrook turned his engines on and started soaring. He scored the Thunder’s final 15 points of the half to cut the lead down to 8 points, and midway through the third quarter the Thunder were in the lead. Without Durant, without Ibaka, without even Andre Roberson. Westbrook isn’t doing it completely on his own, but his supporting crew isn’t the most impressive group ever assembled.
Westbrook scored 33 points in what caps off another incredible month, averaging 30.9 points, 8.5 rebounds and 10.2 assists. Sure, he’s shooting just 40.3% from the field and turning the ball over six times a game as an ominous attachment to these numbers, but the most important part of the equation remains the same. No Westbrook this season, and the Thunder are battling with the Lakers and the Timberwolves to finish last in the West.
D.J. Augustin had a very good game off the bench with 19 points and Enes Kanter, after a rough experience (which he brought on himself) in Utah looked a bit more like himself, scoring 11 points, grabbing 9 rebounds. Dion Waiters had 18, Steven Adams finished with a double double of 13 and 16 while Anthony Morrow sharp-shooted his way to 11 points as well. It’s hard to say Westbrook isn’t getting any help.
It was a huge game, and we played with a playoff mindset. What changed was we went out there and played a scrappy brand of basketball.
And that’s the Thunder for you. It might be exciting to see them play because of the speed and the intensity radiating off of Westbrook. However, this isn’t the “right” basketball or even a pretty kind. There’s nothing smart of sophisticated about this offense, there never has been. It’s latching on to one talent (or two on a good day) and hoping the ride lasts as long as possible. It’ll be enough for the playoffs, but there? Even Westbrook isn’t that amazing.