Russell Westbrook’s wildly entertaining marathon of MVP-level madness might have both peaked and ended last night.
The Oklahoma City Thunder’s star point guard went berserk, scoring 54 points on 21-for-43 shooting, to go with nine rebounds and eight assists in a crucial loss to the Indiana Pacers, 116-104. The Thunder remain out of the playoff picture after falling behind Anthony Davis and the New Orleans Pelicans, with just two games to go in the season.
And if they want to beat the Portland Trail Blazers and stay close on New Orleans’ tail Monday night, they’ll likely have to do it without Russ. In addition to his monstrous stat line on the evening, he also gained his sixteenth technical foul of the season, earning him a suspension for the following game. Thunder coach Scott Brooks sounded confident that the penalty would be rescinded, but he may be doing a bit of wishful thinking.
When asked whether he took too many shots in the game, Westbrook said: “Every night I go out and compete harder than anybody else in this league. As long as my teammates don't have a problem with it, I'm good with it.”
With Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka out of the lineup, it’s hard to argue much with Westbrook’s usage rate. He’s the Thunder’s best option on most possessions, and his coach and teammate know their remaining superstar is the unicorn they have to ride or die with.
But in the end, the final result of Westbrook’s indelible streak (which has included eleven triple-doubles) may be a sort of TKO; a Thunder death caused by the no-fun police, enforcing a rule that favors decorum over competitive intrigue.
While Westbrook’s demeanor on the court can be overzealous and downright rude at times…. who really cares? And who wins when one of the year’s most compelling players is pulled out of one of the league’s few remaining playoff races, in the season’s final days?
— John Wilmes