Someone always has to take the blame, and it seems many have gone back to the Russell Westbrook ‘problem’ the Oklahoma City Thunder, instead of looking at how well the Miami Heat are playing for enough minutes or the mismatches and defensive problems for the Thunder peaking their heads.
When Westbrook was blamed early on in the season for being a great scorer but a bad point guard, it made some sense. Everyone bought into it. He had an argument with Kevin Durant on the bench and everyone were ready to start the guessing game as to when and where Westbrook will be traded.
But the Thunder had a great season, with Westbrook at the helm. Not your classic point guard. Not a floor general, and not someone who looks for a pass before anything else. He scored 23.6 points a night and had his best field goal numbers in his career, despite the perception of his bad shot selection and poor percentage, making 45.7% from the field. He may not be the best defender among those at his position, but not a liability, and gives the team so much more.
In the playoffs, it hasn’t been much different. The Thunder lost just three games in total and went undefeated at home until the Finals thanks to Westbrook, not despite of him. Averaging 22.4 points, 5.5 rebounds and 6 assists in the postseason. He scored 27 points in both games against the Heat, adding 8 rebounds and 9 assists per game. His game 1 and 2 were very similar. It wasn’t him that dropped the ball.
The Miami Heat were simply much better, determined and consistent in the second half when compared with the first game. Dwyane Wade played much better, and so did Chris Bosh while the Thunder still couldn’t realize what to do with Shane Battier, raining 17 more points from beyond the arc.
But it’s easy to blame Westbrook and the shots he misses than try and look for a more complicated explanation that is much more than just one player under-performing. And Westbrook isn’t exactly under performing, like he was in the first two games of the Western Conference Finals, when it looked like the Spurs actually broke him mentally with screens and Tony Parker.
His shot selection could obviously be better, and at times he dribbles the ball too long instead of giving it to players in better position. But as Coach Nick explains, Westbrook did more good than harm during the game. Westbrook has more to do with why the Thudner are considered the favorites in this series and have been so dominant throughout the playoffs than with why the Thunder lost game 2.
Adjustments? Not stalling with passes and realizing when players are in better positions. Getting rid of the habit of driving into the lane when he’s covered by two players. Westbrook shouldn’t stop pushing inside and than pulling up for shots from around the free throw line. There’s no one on the Heat really capable of stopping him, and his shooting was a big part of the Game 1 comeback. The blame game has to be shifted elsewhere, or the Thunder won’t have anything fixed for Game 3.