When a team’s best player has an off game, its chances of winning aren’t very good. This is especially true when the player is an MVP. On Tuesday night, not only did the Oklahoma City Thunder’s MVP Kevin Durant have an off game but they were still able to pick up a huge playoff victory. They were able to do this because of the play of point guard Russell Westbrook. With Durant struggling, Westbrook went off for 38 points, carrying the load offensively for the Thunder and eventually making the game clinching free throws. It seemed as if Russell could sense that his teammate was struggling and he became even more aggressive than usual. Although it was effective on Tuesday, Westbrook will have to continue to walk the tightrope of aggression when it comes to his gameplay. As Thunder fans know well, the same type of play that helped them win game 5 can also be their downfall.
Russell Westbrook’s play style has been a bit of a controversy for a few years now. There is no denying that he is a special talent, but many have said that he may not be the best fit with Durant. The easy accusation is that he shoots too much and doesn’t pass enough. This really isn’t the case. Westbrook is a very willing passer. He averaged nearly seven assists this season and had 7.4 per game last year. The issue is his consistency. He tends to go through stretches where he looks to pass more and his numbers are inflated. He will then go in to hyper-aggressive mode and lose complete focus of the task at hand. He seems to focus on only getting his shot up and therefore misses open shooters spotting up. As for the shots, there should be no limit or accusation of him taking too many. When a player is that good, he should not be limited in any way when it comes to scoring, even when he has a player like Durant on his team. As long as the shots he takes come within the natural flow of the offense, and he is always scanning the floor for his teammates, the Thunder shouldn’t have any issues.
Entering game 6, OKC will look for Westbrook to regain the form he had early on in the series. Even though he was able to help them win game 5 by trying to score as much as possible, he will need to make sure he can get his teammates involved more. Assuming Durant is having a better game, it will be important for him to be heavily involved in the Thunder offense from the tip in order for them to click on all cylinders. This will also allow players like Reggie Jackson and Caron Butler have a bigger impact, as well as let Westbrook impact the game in many other ways.
Look for Russell Westbrook to look to pass early on in game 6. This is something he has done well throughout the playoffs and it should help the team get things going before he can get in to a rhythm shooting the ball. Either way, Thunder fans should be confident knowing that they have two players who by themselves can give their team as good of a chance as anyone to win a game.