Thunder in the News: The comeback that returned our hope

Russell Westbrook (and Paul George and Alex Abrines and Steven Adams and a few others) really did it. A 25-point comeback keeps the OKC Thunder alive for another game – let’s figure out how it happened.

I’ll be honest with you. I went to bed at halftime. I was frustrated with many things – a heavy workload, an upcoming move this weekend, a terrible OKC Thunder first half – so I decided to call it quits.

Wow…that was the worst decision of my sports fandom life.

I missed experiencing a truly legendary performance from Russell Westbrook. The video montages are fun, but I can only imagine how it felt seeing the Russ of last season return. And that’s where we’re going to start.

Russ pulled a Russ and I’m happy to eat my words

First, I want to apologize to Russell Westbrook and the rest of Thunder Nation for disrespecting our loyal superstar. The last tweet I sent off before falling asleep was in a fit of heavy, emotional rage. I did not mean it, although I’ll stand by the fact that Russ’ ego is a controlling factor of this team (both good and bad).

Last night exemplified that.

OKC Thunder

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK – APRIL 25: Russell Westbrook #0 of the OKC Thunder goes to the basket against the Utah Jazz in Game Five of Round One of the 2018 NBA Playoffs on April 25, 2018 at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Zach Beeker/NBAE via Getty Images)

By all accounts, Westbrook looked like the player that was voted the Most Valuable Player last season. The shots that have missed all series finally fell – he showed the naysayers (including me) exactly what he’s capable of at any given moment. If Russ is on the brink of a hot shooting stretch than the Thunder truly have a chance of winning this series. But they’re going to need him to play like he did in the second half, for two full games.

Russell Westbrook probably didn’t turn into a knockdown jump shooter at halftime. But for a team that invited expectations, failed to meet them and looked like it was headed for an early postseason exit, Wednesday night was a significant moment.

Going to need role players to step up rest of series

The other must for an OKC Thunder comeback is for role players to continue stepping up in the moment. Last night it was Alex Abrines, who supposedly locked down Donovan Mitchell last night. To be honest with you I’m more upset I missed seeing that then Russ’ explosion.

Abrines actually played more minutes than Corey Brewer last night. I wrote about him in after the Game One victory, and everything I said then remains true. He is an x-factor because of his maddeningly inconsistent play (sounds like a superstar I know). If Abrines can actually defend without fouling (it doesn’t even have to be Mitchell), Oklahoma City will be a much better team than with Brewer in the lineup.

That’s a big ‘if’ at the moment, but Abrines stepped up in the biggest game of his career. I’m going to spend the next two days believing he can succeed yet again, and I suggest you do the same.

https://twitter.com/alexabrines/status/989356559347089408

The recipe for a historic comeback is there

And finally, we turn to somebody who actually watched the spectacular comeback unfold. My partner Tamberlyn Richardson provided her five takeaways from last night, which essentially laid out the recipe for an Oklahoma City series victory. Long-time readers know her premonitions tend to pan out – let’s hope she’s correct on this one.

To be clear, the hard work is far from over. The Thunder will need to go into Salt Lake City and win on a very home friendly court just to stay alive in the series. That said, if OKC can do precisely that you have to believe it will play upon the Jazz psyche and give OKC an edge to do the unthinkable.

That’s it for today’s issue of Thunder in the News! We’re still alive everyone. Russell Westbrook put all of us on his back, and for that I will be eternally grateful. Hopefully he can continue making me swallow my words and lead Oklahoma City to an historic comeback.

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