It’s hard to find point guards that have been as selfish on the floor as Russell Westbrook is, but when he doesn’t have to waste precious brain-fuel on defense and chasing other players, he also doesn’t really need any help in getting the ball in the basket, once again out-shooting and force once also out scoring and losing less ball than his co-star, Kevin Durant.
It’s horrifying to think how many shots would Russell Westbrook be taking each game if he didn’t have Durant next to him. Still, he scored 27 points on 9-21 from the field to lead the Thunder in a 100-88 over the San Antonio Spurs, who didn’t have Tony Parker for half the game, possibly giving them home court advantage when the two teams are likely to meet in the Western Conference Finals.
The interesting, yet least surprising fact about what Westbrook did? He scored 22 of his 27 points on 50% (7-14 FG) shooting when he was the only Thunder player to touch the ball on a possession. Westbrook was 2-of-7 shooting when his shot came after a pass from a teammate. Make what you will of it, but it just goes to show you what the Thunder, and especially Westbrook, are about. No organized basketball – simple screen and pops, making the most out of the offensive talent of Durant and Westbrook. It works against most teams, but sometimes, a little bit more offensive sophistication and planning might be needed. Being unpredictable all the time doesn’t always work.
Durant had a trend working for him – pick n’ roll after pick n’ roll, which the Spurs found a hard time handling. He scored 25 points on the night, 15 of them coming off a screen and a pick and roll. All six of his assists came on passes directly off such plays, including four leading to corner threes. Almost 60% of his touches in half-court sets came using a screen.
While Tim Duncan and Kawhi Leonard (both scoring 24 points) tried to keep the Spurs ship afloat after a terrible first quarter, it seemed that Derek Fisher, not doing too well since Mark Cuban started using voodoo dolls to get his revenge on players that wronged him, was there to kill any sort of San Antonio momentum. The five-time NBA champion scored 17 points, hitting five 3’s on his best night of the season, as the Spurs defense kept falling for the same misdirection and tricks.
What does this mean for the postseason? The Spurs couldn’t win last season with home-court advantage, now they might need to do it on the road, as the chances of Popovich now giving his stars some (or more than just some) rest till the end of the regular season looking more and more likely.