Jun 16, 2012, 3:22 AM EDT
Whenever the Thunder lose, like they did in Game 2 Thursday night, the blame falls quickly on Russell Westbrook. He started 1-7 shooting with just one assist as the Thunder fell behind 18-2 to open the game. A hole they could never get out of.
If he would just stop taking shots away from Durant, if he would just be a more traditional point guard, if he…
Stop it. That means you, Magic Johnson. You are missing the point on the Thunder’s team dynamic. And the Game 2 loss is not Westbrook’s fault.
People need to stop trying to make Westbrook into what he is not and appreciate what he is. Here is Thunder coach Scott Brook’s comment, from the twitter of Darnell Mayberry of the Oklahoman.
“He’s never going to be John Stockton. He’s never going to be Mo Cheeks (one of Brooks’ assistant coaches),” he said “But there are a lot of players out there who are never going to be Russell Westbrook.”
Let me be blunt — this team would not be better with Mo Cheeks or even John Stockton at the helm. Because what the Thunder have to have to win is a dynamic scorer next to Durant, not just more shots for Durant.
Don’t believe me? From ESPN’s Dean Oliver (one of the gurus of advanced stats for basketball):
In fact, the refrain that “he takes away too many shots from Durant” has been a commonly heard criticism of Westbrook all season. The problem with this attack is that the numbers show that the Thunder haven’t actually done better in games where Durant has had more opportunities than Westbrook this season….
For some perspective, the average usage percentage (number of possession a player uses per game) is 20.0 percent, Durant’s average this season is 30.3 percent, and Westbrook’s average is 31.7 percent (5th-highest in NBA)….
The Thunder offense is at its worst when Durant has an above average usage percentage and Westbrook has a below average usage percentage – averaging just 104.0 points per 100 possessions in those 20 games, with the team winning less than half of those as a result.
Right now, Kevin Durant is an efficient scorer because he doesn’t have to do all the scoring. He has Westbrook, he has James Harden, some nights other guys step up. Remove Westbrook from the equation and Durant is now forced to take shots he currently passes up as not good enough, not open enough. You don’t score at a high rate on those shots. Durant would be less efficient and the Thunder would suffer.
Interestingly, Oliver notes that the Thunder are at their best when both Westbrook and Durant use fewer possessions than normal. Those are the games where James Harden or some other player stepped up for the Thunder, taking the scoring burden off both of the big stars.
There are nights Westbrook is going to miss shots, like any other scorer. But the man does pass — he has assisted on 28.9 percent of his teammates baskets when he has been on the floor these playoffs. Remember some of those plays, like late in Game 2 when he passed up a good look 15 footer on the baseline to feed Durant in the corner. He will make the basketball play.
The fact of the matter is if the Thunder are going to come back and win Game 3 in Miami Sunday, it will be because Westbrook was shooting and scoring. A lot. Not just passing. He has to be himself.
And we should appreciate him for what he is.
Jun 19, 2013, 9:29 PM EDT
Game 7 of the NBA Finals. It doesn’t get any better than this. Kay Adams and I take a look forward to Thursday night’s game with a quick look back at Game 6 (no, Chris Bosh should not have been called for a foul on that last shot) then we start talking about how tired…
Jun 19, 2013, 8:30 PM EDT
Say whatever you will about how the Grizzlies dumped Lionel Hollins – and there’s a lot to say, most of it not favorable to the team’s management – but they’re conducting this coaching search the right way. They didn’t rush to hire the favored but unproven assistant, Dave Joerger. Instead, they interviewed safer choices like…
Jun 19, 2013, 7:41 PM EDT
Jerry Sloan is back with the Utah Jazz, and the world just seems a little more orderly. The Jazz have brought back Sloan as a “senior basketball advisor” the team announced on Wednesday. What does that mean? Some player evaluations (both before the draft at workouts and at places like Summer League), a little scouting,…
Jun 19, 2013, 6:57 PM EDT
One day after as dramatic an NBA Finals game as you will ever see — and one day before a Game 7 to decide the NBA crown — the Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs were back on the practice court and talking to the media. The Miami players, as you might expect, seemed confident…
Jun 19, 2013, 6:20 PM EDT
Update (6:40 p.m.): Chris Paul is the catalyst for trade talks resuming. Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports: Clippers management believed Boston would eventually come back to them out of a belief that the Celtics-Rivers relationship would be difficult to repair, but league sources told Y! Sports that Paul’s desire to play for Rivers – and…
Jun 19, 2013, 6:05 PM EDT
At one point Grizzlies assistant Dave Joerger was considered a strong front-runner to replace Lionel Hollins, but Memphis has interviewed former head coaches like George Karl and Alvin Gentry. Apparently, those other interviews weren’t just for show before hiring Joerger, because the Grizzlies are on round two of interviews. Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports:…
Jun 19, 2013, 5:33 PM EDT
The Mavericks have made no secret about wanting to prevent the No. 13 pick from cutting into their cap room, whether that means trading the pick or drafting and stashing a player. The idea of wasting a lottery pick, either by dumping it in an uneven trade or using it on a lesser prospect just…
Jun 19, 2013, 5:09 PM EDT
Nerlens Noel would be a worthy No. 1 pick in many drafts if it weren’t for his ACL tear. His athleticism and defensive skills draw rave reviews from both traditional scouts and number crunchers. There’s safety in a consensus positive opinion, and Noel provides that on the court. But his ACL tear and the possibility…
Jun 19, 2013, 4:31 PM EDT
MIAMI — The Spurs held a five-point lead with a little more than 28 seconds remaining in Game 6, before the Heat mounted a furious comeback to send it into overtime and ultimately force a seventh game. As things looked particularly dire, with San Antonio on a 10-2 run and seemingly on their way to…
Jun 19, 2013, 4:21 PM EDT
The will he?/won’t he? saga about returning to coach his Atlantic Division team has ended. No new information on Doc Rivers, but Dwane Casey will be back with the Raptors. Raptors press release: Toronto Raptors President and General Manager, Basketball Operations Masai Ujiri announced Wednesday that Head Coach Dwane Casey will return for the 2013-14…
Jun 19, 2013, 3:42 PM EDT
Dwyane Wade has been clearly grounded through much of the playoffs. While he has had some monster games — including Games 4 and 5 of the Finals — his right knee has held him back at times. Now you can add his left knee to the list of issues. Wade and Manu Ginobili banged knees…
Jun 19, 2013, 2:21 PM EDT
As a series moves deeper ratings go up — and Game 6 lived up to that, with a huge jump in viewership for ABC. An estimated 16.8 million people — a 14.7 rating — tuned in to watch Game 6, ESPN announced. The previous high this series had been 11.4 million viewers for a game…
Jun 19, 2013, 2:15 PM EDT
MIAMI — Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich was the recipient of some rare criticism following his team’s collapse in the final moments of regulation in Game 6, and it surrounded his decision to bench Tim Duncan during some key defensive possessions. The end result, twice with under 30 seconds to play, was the Heat getting…
Jun 19, 2013, 1:18 PM EDT
MIAMI — For all intents and purposes, the game was over. Except that it wasn’t. The Heat trailed Game 6 of the Finals by five with under 30 seconds to play, and fans in Miami began streaming for the exits. Arena staffers in yellow shirts lined the baselines and the court across from the team…
Jun 19, 2013, 12:53 PM EDT
Now that the drama of Doc Rivers and Kevin Garnett headed the Clippers trade talk has subsided, it’s time for everyone in Boston to act like adults and end this soap opera. To that end, Rivers and Celtics GM Danny Ainge are expected to sit down face-to-face Wednesday and talk, Ainge told the Boston Herald.…
Jun 19, 2013, 12:07 PM EDT
PBT’s own Brett Pollakoff tweeted this out when the Heat were down 5 with: 28 seconds left and the Heat had called a timeout. “Fans in Miami heading for the exits.” Thousands of them. Not anywhere near a majority, but enough to reinforce the stereotype. Plenty (again, far from all) fans in Miami fit the…
Jun 19, 2013, 11:21 AM EDT
Gregg Popovich is the best coach in basketball right now. One of the best of all time. He has four rings and built a culture in San Antonio that has them in NBA Finals 14 years apart and with consistent 50+ win seasons in between. But he is not perfect. He made a couple decisions…
Jun 19, 2013, 10:31 AM EDT
That was an epic Game 6. There was great play from both sides, huge shots by Ray Allen and Tony Parker and LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard and… I could go on and on. The players knew it was a great game, too. These are some highlights from the postgame press conferences where they talk…
Jun 19, 2013, 8:45 AM EDT
With the Heat season on the brink LeBron James needed to change things up… He ditched the headband. Not exactly ditched, but late in the game LeBron’s headband was knocked off — and then he went off. LeBron played a key stretch of the fourth quarter then all of overtime without it. Couper Moorehead of…
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