Ball In Durant’s Hands, Fate In Others

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Twelve seconds left in the game and the only way for Francisco Garcia to have gotten any closer to Kevin Durant’s jersey would have been to wear it with him.

This is life now, as far as it goes without Russell Westbrook, for as long as the Thunder can keep going in the playoffs.

OKC has always been a team looking for Durant as the ultimate bailout guy in the final seconds of a game. Trouble is, now the Thunder pretty much need him to be loading, pulling and driving their wagon from opening tip to the final horn.

Yes, Durant got a luxurious six minutes of rest in Game 4 on Monday night, but he still had to make 12 of 16 shots, score 38 points, grab eight rebounds and deal six assists just to give his team an opportunity to flub the final possession.

Without Westbrook on the court, there is nobody else to simply step in and step up and make the plays at both ends of the floor that can change the tide and halt momentum. He couldn’t be a game-changer on defense when the Rockets were scoring 38 points in the third quarter and he couldn’t be the difference maker when OKC was scoring only 19 points in the fourth.

There are no more “Gipper Games” left in OKC’s locker room as it tries to rally round its fallen buddy. Now the Thunder have to live with the reality of being without their unpredictable lightning bolt if they are going to follow through on those plans to get back to the NBA Finals.

“It was a different feeling, for sure,” backup forward Nick Collison said. “I think for us, we have to be able to get over that. Russ is not going to be with us in the playoffs. It can’t always be this emotional ‘Win one for Russell’ for us because it’s too much an emotional roller coaster.

“I think for us we have to focus on what we’re doing on the court, getting ready to play and take a business-like approach to these games. Still have the emotion you need for a playoff game, but really focus on what we need to do on the floor.”

Quite simply, the margin for error to make a serious reach for the Larry O’Brien Trophy is the kind usually familiar to only the bomb squad and the Wallenda Family.

The Game 4 score when the Thunder lineup was on the floor was 31-14 in favor of Houston. The rest of the combinations beat the Rockets 89-74.

A couple of questions: How many times can OKC get away with such insignificant production from the starters? Can the reserves deliver consistently enough to tip-toe through the minefield of four full playoff rounds?

As splendid as he is and as many clouds as Durant may be able to scrape with his soaring talent level, it’s going to take much more Serge Ibaka (eight points), Kendrick Perkins (zero), Thabo Sefolosha (five) and Collison (three) to keep rowing the Thunder ship through the deeper waters. The Rockets are young and athletic and play with the abandon of a shirts-and-skins game on the playground, but they are no real threat to beat the Thunder in a seven-game series. That will come when they have to body up against the bruising Grizzlies or lobbing Clippers in the next round or the much deeper Spurs in the Western Conference finals, if they make it that far.

If the Thunder are going to stay afloat, they have to do it with the unlikely combination of the second-year man Reggie Jackson and 38-year-old veteran Derek Fisher manning the point. Jackson score 18 points before seeming to run out of gas at the end, while Fisher kept advancing the AARP cause by knocking down four 3-pointers.

While playing the point-forward position may give Durant a better view of where he can create his own scoring chances, the Thunder can’t let it come at the expense of not producing enough offense of their own.

Durant is young and willing with the legs and spirit that are capable to play virtually from start to finish every time out from here to June, if that’s what it takes. Nobody doubts that he can deliver individually. But in the end, how he can take them is not in his hands.

Series hub: Thunder vs. Rockets

17 Comments

  1. Focused Boy says:

    I believe we need to play Lamb this guy was pretty much screwed over this year he’s on that Kevin MArtin rookie year status… anyway please put input

    • OKCKD35 says:

      id like to see lamb get some minutes, unfortunately now is not the time, he has not worked much with the top 10 rotational players, this leads to bad spacing on offense and bad rotations on defense, too much of a liability now, hopefully they groom him more next year

  2. lakernation says:

    If OKC really wants that trophy, they can get it. Everyone has to face the fact that westbrook is gone. they need to move forward not backwards. Trust each other and find ways to score. all players must step up,

  3. hey guys… i know that the thunder role players should step up, no question about that… but i just think that the bigger deal is, they should be consistent defensively… why? for example, the Bulls.. they are not a very good shooting club, but they most of the time win.. the thunder team can score the ball.. in game 1 they shot 53% and they won by 29.. in game 2 they shot 44% and won by 3, in game 3 they only shot 38% but won by 3… and in game 4, they shot 49%. but lost by 2.. KD can score anytime he wants.. they must only be consistent defensively and they’ll be fine.. and also in taking care of the ball and rebounding and they’ll be fine.. as you can observe in the previous games, they have a lot of defensive breakdowns and thus, losing the lead..

    i believe that westbrook will be back soon.. metta world peace suffered the same injury but came back 12 days later… what more from a very persistent and hard-nosed guy like westbrook?

    • Charles Jones says:

      I’m with you bro, and Okc’s my fav team, but they can do it without Westbrook. I also agree with you about Westbrook returning, even though he’s supposed to be out for the rest of the playoff’s.. OKC/Spurs 2013 Champs..Mostly OKC 2013 Champs

  4. manne says:

    its too early to say anything the thunder had home advantage and stole a game from Houston without west brock. Houston is a good team and I don’t think it was going to loose the first two home games of the playoffs.
    lets focus at next game and not next series.
    I wish good health to all the teams but we can expect other all-stars injuries
    I expect to see at least on of this players get injured do to their health history
    chris paul
    wade
    parker
    ginobli
    Noa
    Carmelo

  5. JR says:

    This is where OKC should have really been developing Jeremy Lamb a little more throughout the season. I think he could have had some valuable minutes here.

  6. try harder says:

    To win the final OKC needs a point guard who is willing to make the whole team better. WB is mostly by himself so even with him they will collapse facing Miami. Beside Durant nobody step up, Fisher is decent for his help but thats about it. Ibaka is ok but not great. Thabo is missing all open shots, Perkin is no help but fouls and complaints. Other guys are playing like the lakers…OKC no chance at all without changes….

    • Chris says:

      Personally think the only role players that can really get it done against Miami in the finals are San Antonio’s. Not saying they will but that will be one competitive series if it happens

    • BEVERLYcostOKCaTITLEchance says:

      WESTBROOK IS THE BEST PG IN THE LEAGUE. I CANT STAND HOW MANY HATERS HE HAS. YES HE IS A SCORING PG BUT HE IS A GOOD ONE. EVERYONE LOVES D ROSE AND ALL WESTBROOK IS IS A BETTER FASTER MORE ATHELETIC AND TALENTED VERSION OF HIM.

  7. I wonder if it will be a repeat of the finals last year or someone else in the west will steal their spot

    • Gary Payton says:

      No brainer, OKC will not last past 2nd round. Doing pretty good for a team with only 5 years.

  8. amitpal says:

    The role players have to step up if the thunder have any chance of winning even with westbrook. Last year in the finals I thought kevin durant and russel westbrook went toe to toe with lebron dwade and bosh. The difference last year was the role players steped up for miami and no one did for thunder. Whether it was shane battier mike miller mario chalmer even noris cole they all out played serge ibaka harden fisher perkins collison. The thunder role players dont exactly show up consistently and because of that I dont think they can win even with westbrook until the thunder can get some consistence role players.

  9. ThunderRocketsFan says:

    They have former starters & promising young talent sitting on the bench. A few of them step up and they’ll be fine.

  10. Chris says:

    This is why as much as I like KD I dont believe OKC can beat Miami in the finals. Miami’s got three options and some really good roleplayers that can really make you pay when it counts. While OKC also has some solid roleplayers I just don’t see them being able to compete against Miami even with WB at 100%. They still need to worry about the west of course and while I don’t see Houston winning the next 3 games (lol) They’re going to have to put up with either the Grizzly (no pun) defense of Memphis or a CLipper offense Spearheaded by one of the best PG’s in the game right now without Westbrook next round. Things look pretty grim for them

  11. Storm Fan says:

    Since Westboork is out injured, not only Durant stepping up but Kevin Martin needs to step up too. Martin needs to go back to his old scoring days, and if he does so, then OKC will be fine through the playoffs :)

    • OKCKD35 says:

      So what you are really saying here is despite terrible games from, Ibaka, Perkins, Sefolosha, and Collison the Thunder only lost by 2? I think you are jumping the gun a bit on this article, at least allow the team a chance to practice together and develop a game plan without Westbrook before you start crucifying the team. If Derek Fisher had released that 3 pointer about 0.2 seconds faster would this have even been a story?