Go ahead and gripe about Russell Westbrook. Gripe about his shot selection, gripe about the chip on his shoulder, gripe that he’s not a point guard, gripe that he doesn’t fit, gripe that he doesn’t play well with others.
And then go ahead and cheer him for what he did Monday night in Boston.
Carried by Westbrook, Kevin Durant and a strange man wearing No. 2, the Thunder found a way to beat the Celtics 97-88 in Boston Monday.
This was one of those games you file away under the category of “Don’t Expect That Again.” Westbrook hit 3-4 from downtown, including two big-time shots late. And those 3s had every bit of Russell Westbrook in them they could possibly have. The irrational confidence to step up and take shots he probably shouldn’t be, but the will and desire to take them. If he clangs those shots and the Thunder lose, with that game being on national TV, he takes quite the beating over the next day. But he’s willing to put his feet to the fire. It’s why I love Russell Westbrook to death and will take him to battle over just about anyone. He is always going to be himself, no matter what the outside influences may say.
Were they good shots? No, not really. They were of the “NO YOU IDIOT OH YES IT WENT IN!” variety. But I’ve said it before — in order to get these games where Westbrook steps up in a huge way, you have to deal with the nights he doesn’t. You hope this games outweigh those by a great number, but it’s a trade-off. But that’s the thing with any player. Some nights Kobe Bryant has it totally working and can carry the Lakers. Some nights he doesn’t and his incessant shooting kills them. But you learn to live with it. Can you not see a big playoff game in June where Westbrook does exactly this and drags OKC to a win? I can. I can also see him shooting the Thunder out of a game, but you have to be willing to toe the line. Welcome to RussellLand where you don’t sit anywhere but on edge and the dreams can be real.
I had a guy come up to me after the game and make a point that Westbrook doing that is the worst thing for the Thunder. For him to have that kind of confidence means he’ll just keep trying it. But I disagree. I think Westbrook needs to have that kind of confidence. You can’t reign in a player like that and tell him he can’t be all he can be. You have to let him fly, even if it’s dangerous. He’s potentially too good not to chance it. It’s a game of Russell Roulette. You just have to hope the gun doesn’t go off.
I’ve always had a theory about the Thunder since James Harden was drafted: When one player scores well, they’re average. When two players score, they can beat most teams.
But when three players score, they’re the best team in the league.
Normally, those three guys, by design, are Harden, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. But Monday night in Boston, that third guy was Thabo Sefolosha who dropped 19 points, hitting two huge 3-pointers in the fourth quarter. Harden had five, Thabo had 19. I feel like I need to type that again just to make myself believe it.
Now, that isn’t a great Celtics team the Thunder beat, but it’s a good one and a team that was desperate for a win. The Thunder had to gut out tough stretches of basketball, play high-quality defense and do just enough to win. These are the type of games that can say something about a team’s quality. When you have a unit that can find answers from unlikely places — also known as Thabo Sefolosha — you have a team that can do wonderful things.
- The Thunder had just eight assists through three quarters. And five in the fourth.
- No, you can’t count on Westbrook or Thabo doing that type of stuff on a consistent basis. But you also can’t count on Harden scoring only five points.
- For a good part of the game, it was all Russ and KD. At halftime, OKC had 46 points with 32 coming from Durant and Westbrook. The two combined for 54 total (Westbrook 26, Durant 28) but that third scorer is what pushed OKC over.
- How awesome do the black shoes look with the home whites? Let me answer that for you: They look GREAT.
- At 12-2, OKC has the best record in the league now.
- The random 3-point barrage from Westbrook and Thabo obviously were the big moments of the game, but the 7-0 run to close the third quarter is really what won the Thunder that game.
- It was Perk’s return to Boston and while you could tell it was a little strange for him, he still played his normal way. He was physical and tough and while he didn’t scuffle and even helped Rajon Rondo up after a hard foul, Perk did himself well in his return.
- Serge Ibaka came out possessed blocking three shots in about five minutes. He finished with four in 23 minutes and didn’t play all that well in the second half, falling asleep on rotations and missing out on weakside help.
- I don’t mind a Westbrook jumper — especially when it goes in — but I do mind them with 22 seconds on the shot clock.
- Reggie Jackson didn’t have a great game. But that’s kind of how it goes sometimes for a backup point guard. He’s not Eric Maynor and we shouldn’t pretend he is, but Maynor gave OKC a luxury that barely any team has. Jackson is serviceable and young — he’s learning on the fly.
- Upset of the night: Perk didn’t get into it with Jermaine O’Neal. How does that not happen?
- Rebounding nearly sunk the Thunder. The defense was really good forcing 18 turnovers and holding Boston to 39 percent shooting, but the Celtics had a +8 margin on the boards and 15 offensive rebounds.
- Mickael Pietrus became one of those guys that you know isn’t good but for some reason is playing out of his mind against your team.
- Seeing Maynor on the bench tonight almost brought a tear to the eye.
- Really want to thank everyone that came out to Brix for the watch party. We had a great turnout and a great game to watch. We’ll do it again soon.
Next up: At the Wizards Wednesday.