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Kevin Durant opens game playing like MVP, Westbrook takes over from there, Thunder even series

May 8, 2014, 2:12 AM EDT

Los Angeles Clippers v Oklahoma City Thunder - Game Two Getty Images

That is why you want Russell Westbrook on your team.

The “good Westbrook” and “bad Westbrook” are different sides of the same coin — he’s always aggressive, attacking, putting pressure on defense and when that works, when his shots is falling and the defense is scrambling, he can take a team down.

That’s sort of what happened Wednesday night.

Kevin Durant started out the game riding the high of winning the MVP award and put up 17 first quarter points, he finished with 32. The Clippers climbed back but it was Westbrook who led the charge for the Thunder — he finished with a triple double of 31 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists. Westbrook led a more balanced attack (Thabo Sefalosha had 12 in the third quarter) as Oklahoma City pulled away in the second half, led by as many as 20 and went on to win 112-101.

OKC’s win evens the series at 1-1 heading back to Los Angeles for Game 3 Friday.

That was Westbrook’s third triple-double of the playoffs. When he plays like this he may pick up a technical (he did), he may play out of control for a stretch (he did), but the good of his pressure and attacks outweighs all of it.

The Thunder offense — with two of the top 10 scorers in the game — is going to get points every night. They did in Game 1. That’s not the issue. Where they got burned in Game 1 was on defense, with Chris Paul knocking down threes and getting into the lane.

In Game 2 the Thunder defended the paint much better, mostly by doing a better job containing the ball handler on the pick-and-roll — the Clippers had 29 shots in the paint and 54 outside it. Westbrook was aggressive on defense — he jumped the passing lane for a steal on the game’s first play — and he was relentlessly chasing Chris Paul over picks and getting help to shut off the easy baskets all game. With that pressure Chris Paul shot 6-of-13, Blake Griffin 5-of-13.

Meanwhile role players stepped up for the Warriors. Serge Ibaka had 14 points on 10 shots, Sefalosha had 14 on nine shots.

Part of it was just better spacing in the Thunder offense — they didn’t bring an extra defender to Westbrook, which let him read the floor better. When former teammate Darren Collison was on him, Westbrook backed him down and scored. When help came he found the open man, often for easy looks. Check out Westbrook’s shot chart on the night.


Now it falls to Doc Rivers to make the adjustments in this series. He has the advantages of going home and having more depth than Scott Brooks to work with — Rivers has more options available. He can change and create more matchups that he likes.

But when they play like this, Durant and Westbrook trump all.

  1. antistratfordian - May 8, 2014 at 2:36 AM

    Westbrook (2) joins Charles Barkley (2) and LeBron James (5) as the only players since 1986 to put up multiple 30-point triple-doubles in the playoffs.

    Sometimes I wonder who the better player is – sometimes it’s Westbrook – sometimes it’s Durant. Russell is a more complete player in my estimation. But KD was right in his MVP speech: Westbrook is an MVP caliber player.

    • bhunter1995 - May 8, 2014 at 8:35 AM

      KD is a lot more consistent the Westbrook. Westbrook has insane games like this one and during these games he is the better player but then he will shoot a game down the toilet like he did against memphis (two times actually) and go 0-6 from three and throw away posessions with horrible shot selection. If Russell could capture this kind of greatness on a nightly or almost nightly basis, Russell would be in MVP talks. I think its his youth holding him back at this point, young players are usually not consistent players and young players often struggle in terms of handling emotion and decision making. Russell needs to mature as a player and if he does do that, while improving his game he will be a top 3 player in the league with KD and Lebron.

      • antistratfordian - May 8, 2014 at 8:35 PM

        Well Durant has garbage games too… but Westbrook has been the best player for the Thunder in these playoffs. And there are stretches of games where he is easily the best player on the team.

        But it’s pretty close. Westbrook has all the tools that Durant does not, and visa versa. And Westbrook’s energy and tenacity is more consistent than Durant’s.

        And you don’t have to put up 30 point triple doubles every night to be in MVP talks… that’s ridiculous. Russell would probably be in MVP talks if he wasn’t playing with Durant – like how Derrick Rose was.

    • rodyaugu - May 8, 2014 at 8:57 AM

      Somehow okc fans always say Durant doesn’t have help, that’s why he hasn’t won a ring yet.

    • packergator - May 8, 2014 at 9:11 AM

      On offense, sure, but he’s got to be more consistent on D.

      • antistratfordian - May 8, 2014 at 8:44 PM

        So does Durant.

    • zerole00 - May 8, 2014 at 11:52 AM

      I think Westbrook has lower lows, and higher highs than Durant, but Durant plays at a consistent high level. Consistency is key in building a team, you know what you can expect from a player and draft your needs accordingly. It’s harder to build a team if one of your players is on/off.

      • antistratfordian - May 8, 2014 at 8:52 PM

        They’re both consistent, but in different ways.

        Westbrook’s energy and commitment is as consistent as anybody’s in the league. Durant’s energy is not as consistent. Sometimes he just hangs around the three point line. Sometimes he doesn’t hustle. Sometimes Durant looks disinterested and inactive while Westbrook saves the day in the 4th. That actually happens quite a bit – and Westbrook actually gets criticized for Durant’s inactivity.

  2. seattlesuperchronic - May 8, 2014 at 2:37 AM

    I know he’s polarizing, but I personally love Westbrook. He’s an animal. And Steven Adams? he’s a man.

    Chris Paul is amazing, I appreciate his skills, but I wonder if he has ever been critical of himself. Everything is someone else’s fault. While he watches game film, does he see the tantrums he throws? I know everybody loves his stupid commercials, but this guy gives me the skeevies.

    • antistratfordian - May 8, 2014 at 3:05 AM

      Could CP3 do anything more than what he already does? Let’s say he’s critical of himself and says he has to get back in the gym to get better for his team. What do you want him working on?

      Personally, I think he’s about as refined and complete as a chubby 6-foot point guard could be.

      • seattlesuperchronic - May 8, 2014 at 3:59 AM

        The first sentence should’ve solidified the sentiment that I think he’s awesome.

        But maybe I should’ve elaborated. He screams at his teammates and refs, he seems to lack any sense of accountability. He throws flailing hissy fits, he flops and takes those wild shots where all he’s trying to do is get a call. All of that is beneath him and his skills. The guy is a great player, no refinement to his game necessary. The bush league tactics are awful to watch.

    • ranfan12 - May 8, 2014 at 3:44 AM

      both of those teams are the top leaders in tantrums lol

      • phillyguyindc - May 8, 2014 at 10:12 AM

        Did you see KD go flying trying to get the illegal screen call? lol

  3. ranfan12 - May 8, 2014 at 3:49 AM

    co final mvps if they make past the finals

    • davidly - May 8, 2014 at 5:47 AM

      George Hill deserves an A+ for having the hardest job, yet putting in most solid all-around effort from a player on either team.

    • packergator - May 8, 2014 at 9:16 AM

      No worries there – I don’t see them beating the Spurs; beating the Clippers will be hard enough.

  4. thenmoveback - May 8, 2014 at 7:58 AM

    Title should read “Durant opens as MVP, finishes with worst flop of NBA season.

  5. cantonbound13 - May 8, 2014 at 8:19 AM

    Someone’s mad King PED didn’t cheat his way to the MVP award this season. Leave it to a bandwagon Heat fan to use the word “flop”.

    • bhunter1995 - May 8, 2014 at 8:27 AM

      Shut up Canton, you comments are unbased and ignorant, every time you comment I lose an IQ point.

      • cantonbound13 - May 8, 2014 at 1:10 PM

        Keep following me, I appreciate the respect. By the way, wrestling is fake & they use PEDs too, I’m sure you find that hard to believe.

    • packergator - May 8, 2014 at 9:14 AM

      Wow, the Lebron-hate continues. Is there anyone besides you even accusing Lebron of PED use? Let it go, man – you’ll feel a lot better when you do, I promise.

      • cantonbound13 - May 8, 2014 at 1:08 PM

        Pay better attention to the comments, instead of just following me. I’ve seen him called LeHGH, King PED, among other names. Smart people know a cheater when they see him. In your defense there were also many people that believed Bonds, Sosa & McGwire.

    • bhunter1995 - May 10, 2014 at 5:02 PM

      No one follows you, you comment on the same website as me and so I am bound to see your comments from time to time, and I never see you comment on anything except for the Heat and how they use PEDs. Guaranteed facts right here, I know more about the game then you and I am better then you at ball why would I follow some fool like you.

  6. thenmoveback - May 8, 2014 at 8:24 AM

    Been going to heat games since u were still living in NY hot shot. Don’t care about the MVP just like LBJ… Rings baby learn about them.

  7. kb2408 - May 8, 2014 at 10:11 AM

    I believe I “correctly” predicted last nights outcome. If I’m not mistaken I said CP3 would be held to half as many points as he scored in game 1. I also predicted an OKC blowout. Ol’ kb…just doing what I do! You may give me my credit now in the form of “thumbs up.”

    • billtetley53 - May 8, 2014 at 11:12 AM

      Thats the first correct prediction you’ve had since you said Howard would go to the lakers.
      I think the old saying is “even a blind squirrel finds a nut sometimes”. Congrats on finding 2 of them.
      Of course they were in your mouth all along, but thats a story for another day….

      • kb2408 - May 8, 2014 at 11:40 AM

        Another inappropriate comment…when are you guys gonna ban this clown? Then again, he has like 3-4 usernames, so I guess it really wouldn’t matter. I’ll just join the majority and ignore you.

      • rodyaugu - May 8, 2014 at 12:19 PM

        You guys are nuts

      • billtetley53 - May 8, 2014 at 1:09 PM

        Thats funny kb, over the last 2seasons, youve had plenty of “inappropriate” remarks. Yet everytime someone gets the better of you( 99.9% of the time) You whine and cry. Youve been saying all along youd ignore me, yet you never last more than a few days.
        Then, when i dont make comments about you, you try to bait me into it. Face it, if it wasnt for me, no one would know who you are on here.

        I have 1 handle on here. Believe it or not, there are a plethora of people that detest you, just like offline, im sure.

        What a big baby that can dish out insults, but certainly cant take it.

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