OKC’s MVP rains, Westbrook rumbles

By Jeff Caplan, NBA.com


VIDEO: Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant put on a show in Game 2

OKLAHOMA CITY – Ninety minutes before tipoff, a severe storm warning was issued. A minute or so before halftime, the lights at Chesapeake Energy Arena suddenly dimmed. Lightning, said the reports, struck a transformer.

Forget that. As the Los Angeles Clippers can attest, it was pure Thunder.

“They did exactly what Scotty Brooks said they were going to do,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said after being beaten 112-101, in Wednesday’s series-evening Game 2. “He said they were going to make us feel them, and I thought they did that.”

Chris Paul and company got a double-barrel dose of MVP Kevin Durant and his right-hand man, Russell Westbrook, a man who many still believe the Thunder would be better off without. Six years together and the notion will not be buried. Perhaps, but not likely, one of the most impressive one-two performances in playoff history will do it: In Game 2, Durant and Westbrook ended up one Durant assist shy from becoming the first tandem to record a triple-double in the same game.

On the night he was presented his MVP trophy in front a roaring crowd of 18,203, a group that included his mom and agent Jay-Z, Durant finished with a game-high 32 points on 10-for-22 shooting, a game-high 12 rebounds and nine assists.

Westbrook combined all of his mesmerizing athletic ability into a storm of hyper-activity, bouncing up for mid-range jumpers, diving on the floor, fearlessly leaping at the rim on drives and relentlessly lunging  for offensive rebounds. He closed out the night with a bit of a gift assist from the official scorekeeper, allowing for a third triple-double of the playoffs: 31 points on 13-for-22 shooting, 10 assists and 10 rebounds — six offensive. He had three steals, too.

Some 30 hours earlier, Durant had moved this entire city to tears with a heartfelt MVP speech. He tearfully singled out every one of his teammates, all of whom joined him on the stage, and purposefully saved praise for his point guard for last:

“A lot of people put unfair criticism on you as a player, and I’m the first to have your back through it all,”  Durant told Westbrook. “Everybody loves you here. I love you.”

“I love him like a brother,” Westbrook said after the big win. “We’ve been together since I’ve been here. He’s taught me so much as a player and also things off the floor. I’m really grateful for what he said.”

The emotional, high-strung Westbrook will never be the more naturally affable Durant. But there’s a pretty strong record building that Durant might not have been holding up that MVP trophy Wednesday night without his complex yet uniquely talented sidekick. The two 25-year-olds, seeking a second trip to the NBA Finals in three years, keep tuning out the noise to make more of their own.

“We set the bar high for ourselves, we have a high standard we try to reach,” Durant said. “We both work extremely hard. One thing about Russ, he commands so much out of everybody and he brings the level of the team up, just his intensity, just his effort. It is fun to play with a guy like that who loves the game so much, who wants to win so much. It’s just a great chemistry we have and it’s growing every day.”

Paul’s uncanny patience, skill and a career night splashing 3s dominated Game 1. In Game 2, he got hit with early foul trouble, allowing Westbrook to take advantage of the smaller Darren Collison.

Even when Paul was on the floor, Westbrook’s relentlessness at both ends shaped the direction of the game. He took only four 3-point shots — made two — a clear sign that he wasn’t rushing shots early in the clock or pounding the rock and foregoing open teammates.

The Thunder’s ball movement was on point, with Westbrook sneaking passes into Serge Ibaka and setting up Kendrick Perkins (a rare explosion of eight points and nine rebounds) against the Clippers’ foul-maligned center, DeAndre Jordan. Westbrook penetrated and kicked to Thabo Sefolosha for open 3s. Sefolosha finally started to knock those down just as he picked up a lagging defensive effort early on, and was key to the Thunder’s 33-point third quarter, turning a five-point halftime advantage into a a commanding 94-77 lead.

When Westbrook gets his teammates involved, the pressure forced upon defenses can be overwhelming.  When he has the volume cranked and Durant has space to do his thing, it’s lights out more often than not.

Sometimes it’s hard to guess  if a 10-for-31 or a 10-for-16 Westbrook will show up. Those are his shooting numbers from his first two triple-doubles in these first nine playoff games. Wednesday was another efficient and lethal endeavor. It’s also well worth noting that he logged 41 minutes, his fourth 40-plus-minute game of the postseason, making everybody forget about a right knee that was operated on three times from last April through December.

“I know I’m going to get a competitive Russ, and that’s what I look for every game,” Brooks said. “He’s going to give you everything he has. He’s not going to make every shot, but he’s going to compete, and after the game you know that you’ve played against Russell. And I respect that.”


VIDEO: Westbrook’s triple-double in Game 2

15 Comments

  1. OKC says:

    I swear people don’t realize how lucky we are to have two elite players who are willing to share a team.

    Westbrook is eating up the clips tiny guards lol.

  2. KD ALL THE WAY says:

    I swear, if both of them got triple doubles, I would just cry from delight. We’re talking serious criticism about these two amazing partners, yet Westbrook is VITAL and he showed it to all the frikin haters in the world. I mean, I know my name says it all, but they will need Russ.

  3. okc2014 says:

    OKC2014! Thabo Sefelosha was awesome too! Loved that all the starters were involved in the game! Yeah! Great Game!

  4. Alexander Yaguara says:

    KD, Michael Jordan profetize between James and Bryan, that he prefered you. The king has spoken, and the new one is coming. That’s for sure.

  5. Orvcharl1 says:

    When Russell Westbrook plays with control (which basically comes down to this simple thing: SLOW DOWN before you speed up again) he is the best player in the league. People put way too much value and prestige on scoring. Russell scores (albeit not always efficiently, but when he does its a bonus), defends, rebounds, facilitates, all with breakneck energy and relentlessness. He’s without a doubt the most fiery competitor in the L. IF Russell can just slow down when he brings the ball up, see what set the defense is aiming for, then use that quick burst to catch them off guard, he can score easily but more importantly, the defense will ALWAYS collapse on him so that leaves his teammates open. Also, he gets fouled on almost every play but he’s GOTTA REALIZE that the refs won’t call every single one. Stop complaining and getting T’ed up…get back in transition to corral CP3! A focused Westbrook can DEFINITELY hold Chris Paul numbers down; just keep fighting to get around those 10,000 screens and he’ll be good.

  6. Playoffs says:

    I have to admit man this game by Russell was one of the greatest I’ve seen in a LONG time as far as the playoffs are concerned. I mean WOW, he was EVERYWHERE AT ONCE. At one stage he forced 3-4 consecutive offensive fouls off the Clippers and got Deandre in serious foul trouble as a result. He was just insane this game and I hope he maintains this level of activity – especially on defense – going forward. Its actually mind blowing how high this guy’s ceiling is. If he could just harness this raw energy and deliver on a nightly basis, I’d have him as an MVP favourite in the next 3-4 years or so.

    That being said, I seriously hope Scott Brooks doesn’t overplay him. It’d be TRAGIC if he suffers the same fate Rose has – especially since he had a complicated knee surgery very recently. They should try to integrate Reggie into the rotation more – he’s another player that has a high ceiling that just needs more minutes and shots to grow further

    • Game Time says:

      You mean the refs forced those fouls. Like the two early ones on CP3. Westbrook had a good game as he tends to, but just wait until Friday and he’ll be chucking up bricks and causing OKC to go down 2-1.

      • You’re Floppiness says:

        It was hard tell at first…but then there it was the foul complaining notorious of every Clipper fan in a the aftermath of a game lost. Isn’t it hard cheering for the hug happy Griffin? I thought the highlight where Westbrook threw it down and Blake hopped out of the way with his jaw dropped was great how about you? That is way Blake will not lead the Clipper to a Ring! He is more worried about getting posterized then the he is about his team.

      • okckd35 says:

        Hahaha looks like russell dominated the clips again. Looks like the clippers are down 2-1 haha

      • okckd35 says:

        Awww. What about all the no calls to maoe up.for the early calls on paul. He should have been called for.a.few more. But excuses excuses. Same thing just happened to serge ibaka and he still ripped u guys for 20 points. So much for flop city winning both at home. So sick of watching the clippers fall every time they shoot a 3

  7. theholyspectator says:

    okc put that work on the clipps, boy this is gonna be an awesome series

    • Game Time says:

      Hardly. Great game for Durant. Horrible game for Blake and the foul trouble for CP3 and DJ helped. OKC will be leaving LA down 3-1.

      • Andrew says:

        If you havent noticed Blake can’t do anything against ibaka.. and its going to be like that for the rest of the series.. whos going to guard to Durant?? whos guarding Westbrook?? Griffin is contained by Ibaka, Deandre contained by Perking.. okc in 6..

      • okckd35 says:

        Hahaha foul trouble for ibaka and jackson and okc still wins despite great games from griffin and paul. Now whats the excuse?

  8. dunjav2013 says:

    Reblogged this on dunjav.