Thunder-Grizzlies… “What in the Hell is going on out there?” I’ll tell you but it’s not a popular statement.
A couple months ago, I did a piece on why Kevin Durant should be the voted as the Most Valuable Player… I never could have imagined three months ago that KD & the Thunder would hit the offensive roadblock that they have slammed into in round 1 of the 2014 NBA Playoffs. I saw a Tweet from Chris Palmer earlier today stood out to me:
We're in the Golden Age of NBA backcourts.— Chris Palmer (@ChrisPalmerNBA) April 30, 2014
Let’s take a look at some of the guards playing in this postseason:
That’s one hell of a list of guards. The **asterisks** next to Westbrook’s name is to single him out. This past season Russ managed to hold on the ball for an excruciating 7.8 seconds of a possession on average… That’s just under 1/3rd of THE SHOT CLOCK!!! That’s a BIG problem, hence the capital letters. In the first round of this series against the Grizzlies the “Orange” & Russell Westbrook have been magnetically connected every game-all game; that ball-holding/hogging stat has risen to 8.7 seconds per possession, that’s MORE THAN 1/3rd of the allotted time before a team must shoot aka Shot Clock son!
Remember during this past regular season, Westbrook went down due to injury after playing 29 minutes on Christmas Day in the Thunder’s 123-94 blowout W over the Knicks? Russ missed the next 27 games from December 27th until his return on February 20th. During that span, Durant & the Thunder went off, compiling a record of 20-7. That stretch included winning 10 straight games from January 16th to February 1st. That stretch also included the second greatest scoring bonanza in NBA history, Kevin Durant’s 41 straight games scoring 25 or more points, toppling Jordan’s 40-game mark. Yes I realize that a portion of that streak took place when Westbrook came back, but the hype had built by that point & everyone (including Russell) deferred to Durant during that span. Also during that 27 game stretch, a young fella named Reggie Jackson became a hoops-world household name. In just his 3rd season, the 24 year old from Boston College averaged 14.8 points/game, shot better than 41% from the field, averaged roughly 4½ assists, and turned the ball over less than 3x per outing.
Am I saying that Reggie Jackson is a better NBA player than Russell Westbrook? No, I am not. Russell is arguably the most athletic player in the game today, he can run, he can shoot, he’s got amazing leaping ability, he’s big, he’s a fierce competitor. I am saying that for more than a quarter of the NBA season, the Thunder offense & Kevin Durant seemed primed for a Finals run. With Reggie at the 1, the Thunder moved the ball more fluidly. Guys like Serge Ibaka, Nick Collison, & even Kenrick Perkins got touches when they were open in the paint, instead of Russ jacking a triple (see game 3 of this Grizzlies series). Durant, the team’s greatest player, & had the offense go as he did, the rock touched his hands almost every ½ court possession. Instead of that great ball flow that went through the 2013-2014 NBA season’s most valuable player, the Thunder offense is being stopped by one of their own players… Russell Westbrook.
- A. Bellino.