Skip to content

Rockets-Thunder Game 3 preview: Russell Westbrook’s injury a series changer

Apr 27, 2013, 3:59 PM EST

Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook takes a break on the court against the Houston Rockets in the second half of their Game 2 NBA Playoffs basketball game in Oklahoma City. Reuters

The Rockets are down, but Russell Westbrook is out.

Westbrook tore his meniscus and will require surgery. He’s out for the rest the Thunder’s first-round series and longer, giving Houston a much better chance of winning games in these playoffs.

But winning the series? That’s still a tall order, especially already down 0-2.

The Thunder’s net rating (offensive rating minus defensive rating) without Westbrook during the regular season was better than Houston’s overall. It was even better than Houston’s after the Rockets’ mid-season trades, which improved the team.

Still, Westbrook’s injury obviously puts the Thunder in difficult and new territory.

The Thunder’s remaining playoff rotation players (at least so far) – Kevin Durant, Serge Ibaka, Thabo Sefolosha, Kendrick Perkins, Kevin Martin, Reggie Jackson, Nick Collison and Derek Fisher – shared the floor without other teammates for just 278 minutes during the regular season.

Oklahoma City could add another player to its rotation rather than just shrink it to eight, but the Thunder are already using both their backup point guards. Fisher and Jackson often share the court, but now, one or both will have to play more without the other. Some of Oklahoma City’s best and most-used lineups without Westbrook include Hasheem Thabeet, but considering the Rockets found Game 2 success with small ball, giving Thabeet more minutes probably doesn’t make much sense.

No matter how the Thunder adjust their rotation, they’ll have to adjust their offense. Houston has focused on Durant and Westbrook, holding Durant to 43 percent shooting and Westbrook to 41. In turn, Oklahoma City’s other players are shooting 16-for-36 (44.4 percent) on 3-pointers in this series. What happens to those open outside looks when the Rockets have to focus on only one star rather than two?

Durant must step up and carry more of the load.

The Thunder move the ball worse with Fisher and/or Jackson rather Westbrook, so Durant’s one-on-one game becomes more important. During the regular season, Durant took only one more shot per 36 minutes with Westbrook out than with Westbrook in. Durant probably can’t allow his usage to remain so low sans Westbrook, and he can’t wait for Jackson and/or Fisher to set him up.

Iso-Durant isn’t a terrible playoff offense. Everybody hates isolation-heavy offenses, because they’re not fun to watch. But because they do such a great job of limiting turnovers, they’re fairly effective, especially in the playoffs, when there are fewer fastbreak opportunities

Westbrook’s injury might suck some of the aesthetic beauty from this series, but it also makes the series more competitive.

Latest Posts
  1. Giannis Antetokounmpo sprains ankle, leaves Bucks game not to return

    Dec 17, 2014, 11:46 PM EST

    Milwaukee Bucks v Portland Trail Blazers Getty Images

    He walked off under his own power but did not return.

  2. Report: Mavericks and Celtics in ‘substantive discussion’ about Rajon Rondo trade

    Dec 17, 2014, 11:33 PM EST

    Boston Celtics v Dallas Mavericks Getty Images

    Rockets, Kings and Knicks also reportedly inquiring about Celtics point guard

  3. Adam Silver says Charlotte hosting All-Star Game is inevitable

    Dec 17, 2014, 10:25 PM EST

    Adam Silver AP

    In related news, Hornets got a ton of public funding to upgrade arena

  4. Greg Monroe’s agent says he does not want a trade from Pistons

    Dec 17, 2014, 7:39 PM EST

    Detroit Pistons v Orlando Magic Getty Images

    The offers are not going to be big, will Stan Van Gundy eventually give in and take one?

  5. Now what for Milwaukee Bucks? For rookie of the year race?

    Dec 17, 2014, 5:31 PM EST

    Jabari Parker AP

    There are no good answers for the Bucks, or for other rookies to reward.

  6. Kings owner says Malone fired because Kings now need “jazz director”

    Dec 17, 2014, 4:03 PM EST

    Oklahoma City at Sacramento Oklahoma City at Sacramento

    The Kings roster is poorly suited right now for the style the owner wants to play.

  7. Report: Pistons asked for Kyle Korver and Jeff Teague in discussing Greg Monroe trade with Hawks

    Dec 17, 2014, 2:30 PM EST

    Greg Monroe AP

    Portland also reportedly tried to trade for Monroe before he signed the one-year qualifying offer to stay in Detroit.

  8. Isaiah Austin gets added as a player in NBA 2K15 video game

    Dec 17, 2014, 1:50 PM EST

    cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznptg2mzfkyty1yze1ntrjmmmwogrlmge3mdezmdqzmwfk AP

    Former Baylor University center was expected to be drafted, but was diagnosed with a disease that prematurely ended his chances of playing in the NBA.

  9. Dwyane Wade gets poked in the eye by referee, then flops (VIDEO)

    Dec 17, 2014, 1:10 PM EST

    Dwyane Wade AP

    Wade has a reputation of being a flopper, and appeared to exaggerate the contact from the official.

  10. Tyson Chandler says he feels sorry for Carmelo Anthony

    Dec 17, 2014, 12:30 PM EST

    Dallas Mavericks v New York Knicks Getty Images

    He pities ‘Melo because a real competitor is suffering through a lot of losing.

  11. Cavaliers’ Kevin Love a game-time decision Wednesday vs. Hawks

    Dec 17, 2014, 11:50 AM EST

    Atlanta Hawks v Cleveland Cavaliers Getty Images

    Love is suffering from the dreaded flu-like symptoms.

  12. Kings retire Peja Stojakovic’s jersey (VIDEO)

    Dec 17, 2014, 10:30 AM EST

    Peja Stokakovicof Peja Stokakovicof

    Peja was a three-time All-Star, and a member of the only good team Sacramento has had in its franchise history.

Featured video

Can red hot Warriors sustain success?
Top 10 NBA Player Searches
  1. D. Favors (7259)
  2. A. Davis (6542)
  3. K. Martin (6458)
  4. J. Noah (6381)
  5. T. Parker (5976)
  1. T. Jones (5944)
  2. D. Cousins (5939)
  3. A. Bogut (5925)
  4. K. Leonard (5843)
  5. B. Lopez (5633)