The Indiana Pacers beating the Oklahoma City Thunder 116-104 was another perfect example of how Russell Westbrook can play like an MVP and set a new career high for points and it actually won’t be a good thing for a team; not one bit.
The Pacers remain outside of the top 8 in the East but are tied with the Brooklyn Nets with their 37-43 record. C.J. Miles with 30 points, George Hill with 19 and Roy Hibbert scoring 17 points carried the weight for the Pacers, also getting 8 points from Paul George off the bench. Since his return the Pacers have won four in a row, with George usually giving a solid contribution in his 14-to-16 minutes a night.
But the bigger story was on the losers’ bench. Russell Westbrook sitting alone, fuming, giving death stares to hecklers among the Pacers fans. Westbrook knew what he was going to be asked after the game; about his 43 shots, even if he made 21 of them. His 54 points don’t matter when the Thunder lose and remain ninth in the West, losing the tiebreaker right now to the New Orleans Pelicans.
The Thunder wouldn’t be in this place – fighting for a playoff spot, considering the Kevin Durant injury and even Westbrook missing 14 games this season, if it wasn’t for Westbrook himself, a player who players at the highest gear all the time, but is either selfish or doesn’t trust his teammates enough to try and win the games with them. All the triple doubles, all the talk of being the MVP; it all seems irrelevant and slightly misleading when looking at the bigger picture.
Westbrook is what he is. Scott Brooks has said it more than once, and maybe that’s the biggest evidence we have of a coach who has no shot of changing this team, ever. A team about isolation plays without an actual, set and orderly system on offense, that relies on the whims of its only remaining star player. Westbrook doesn’t really have a lot around him, but his form before this 54-point explosion showed that it’s wearing him down. No wonder the Thunder have lost so much in recent weeks.
Westbrook won’t be playing in the Thunder’s next game unless the NBA rescinds a technical foul. He has 16, which calls for an automatic suspension. It didn’t seem like it took a lot for him to say after the foul on Scola to get T’d up, but Westbrook has been complaining and jawing with referees after every call and not just in this game. Maybe sometimes enough is enough.
Kevin Durant didn’t like that call. But it’s a pattern with the Thunder, something Durant has been accused of in the past. Anti-media, anti-referees, with the number of technical fouls over the last two or three seasons to show for it. Put all that combined with the bad luck of injuries that keep hurting this team (others in the league are hurt as well, but because the Thunder aren’t a team but more like a two-man show, it hurts more) and there’s a reason that they end a season wearing disappointment on their face.