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Kevin Durant says Russell Westbrook to return Thursday vs. Heat

Feb 17, 2014, 8:48 PM EDT

Oklahoma City Thunder v Golden State Warriors Getty Images

Welcome back Russell Westbrook, as a present we got you the two-time defending NBA champions to deal with. You can thank us later.

We had told you before this could be coming, but it sounds much more official when Kevin Durant says it — Russell Westbrook should return Thursday when the Thunder take on.

“Next game right after the All-Star break, against Miami,” Durant said of Westbrook’s timetable in an interview with Grantland’s Bill Simmons on Friday.

Westbrook has been out since the day after Christmas, having his third knee surgery since the end of the season last April.

In his absence this season, the Thunder have gone 22-8 in part because Durant stepped up his game to MVP levels, averaging 31.5 points and 5.5 assists a game since Westbrook went down. More than just that, the Thunder’s overall ball movement and offensive play has been more fluid, there has been less standing around watching Durant or Westbrook making a play.

That said, remember the Thunder are 21-4 with Westbrook this season. If that ball movement stays with his return, the Thunder move from clear favorite in the West to “I’m not sure anybody can beat these guys” status.

That experiment apparently begins Thursday night.

  1. kb2408 - Feb 17, 2014 at 11:29 PM

    If RW is close to the player he was prior to the latest injury, OKC will be very difficult to beat in the playoffs. I think KD and a healthy RW are the best combo in the league. They are both mis-matches for anyone that has to guard them.

    • antistratfordian - Feb 17, 2014 at 11:53 PM

      Except if you take a look at their shot charts you see that both rely too much on jumpers. When OKC absolutely needs a high percentage shot, what do they go to? A KD jumper, perhaps? Sometimes, for some maddening reason, a critical possession ends up being a wild Westbrook three. Neither KD or Westbrook take more than 35% of their shots at the rim – Durant only takes 25% of his shots in the restricted area. That will get them into some trouble in the playoffs.

    • fanofthegame79 - Feb 18, 2014 at 7:14 AM

      All I can say is the first year the Heat won the title, OKC was looking just as good in the regular season and everyone annoited them the champs. Then they played the Heat in the Finals. Sure, the Thunder won the first game, but then were swept by the Heat over the next four games. And let’s not forget they had James Harden and a pre-injury Westbrook. I like what I heard the other day: the NBA regular season is nothing more than a string of exhibition games and the playoffs are the real season – the game slows down and changes too much in the playoffs. And as Barkley always says: jump-shooting teams never fair well in the playoffs.

      • antistratfordian - Feb 18, 2014 at 4:09 PM

        Durant is probably going to learn the hard way, like LeBron did – if he learns it at all. He’s too tall to eschew the post. Even Chris Bosh is less afraid to bang down there.

        It’s a lot easier for Durant to shoot jumpers because of his height, but he’s not Dirk Nowitzki – meaning that his mid-range J, while good, is not THAT reliable. At its height Nowitzki’s basic mid-range jumper was falling at over 52% – Durant’s is 45%, which is right at his career high (and right at LeBron’s career high from mid).

        Last year KD shot 45% overall in the playoffs after shooting 51% in the regular season.

  2. ProBasketballPundit - Feb 18, 2014 at 4:22 AM

    Russell Westbrook is great athlete and competitor. Perhaps he takes too many low % shots; but I don’t think you can separate that from his relentless aggression. I’ll take the 90% great and look past the 10% bad. Remember when he dropped 43 on the Heat in the 2012 NBA Finals when Durant wasn’t playing well? And he did it with only 3 free throws and zero 3-point makes.

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