Thursday Bolts – 4.20.17

Andrew Lynch on how ‘Bad Russ’ may have cost OKC the series: “Obviously, the Thunder made it this far because of Westbrook. They’ll take the good with the bad on most nights. Without him, they’d be the Orlando Magic of the West, and no one wants that. Yet he’s equally culpable in Oklahoma City’s struggles. We can admit that, right? Sometimes, Westbrook wins you games. Sometimes, he costs you them. That’s just the reality of watching one of the game’s best players. Believing that the only way the Thunder can win is if Westbrook plays this way is nonsense. Being an elite NBA player is as much about reining in your most destructive instincts as it is maximizing what you do well. Westbrook has the latter on lock; his refusal to modulate his behavior, on the other hand, continues to cost his team in the biggest moments.”

Ramona Shelburne’s piece on the game for ESPN: “Russell Westbrook sat at his locker, trying to type into a series of text messages every bit of frustration he was feeling after the Oklahoma City Thunder lost to the Houston Rockets 115-111 on Wednesday night. For 25 straight minutes, Westbrook sat with his head buried in his thoughts and his phone, texting his friends and family and trying to reckon with the 2-0 hole his team finds itself in this best-of-seven series despite yet another of his sublime and historic triple-doubles. Westbrook scored the most points ever in a playoff triple-double against the Rockets, finishing with 51 points, 13 assists and 10 rebounds. But it was what he couldn’t do in the fourth quarter that was on his mind after the game. “I don’t give a f— about the line,” Westbrook said. “We lost.”

Rohan Nadkarni of SI looks at the disparity between Russ’ on/off stats: “Is it Russ’s job to get teammates involved? Sure. But Westbrook can’t do anything about Enes Kanter’s turnstile defense. Or Andre Roberson’s offensive limitations. Or Semaj Christon’s ineffectiveness. Or Billy Donovan’s refusal to play more of Taj Gibson. Ultimately, the Thunder are a deeply flawed team, and there’s no group of five players on the roster that can play together without having at least one significant weakness on the court. At some point, those weaknesses always catch up to OKC. The Rockets’ make the Thunder’s imbalance even more glaring. When Houston took its first lead of the game Wednesday, James Harden was on the bench. Instead, Patrick Beverley was injecting energy into the second unit while Eric Gordon stretched the defense with his shooting. Beverley, Gordon and Lou Williams all hit clutch threes in the fourth, and that made Harden’s job as closer much easier. For all of Russ’s chucking in the fourth quarter, he was a plus-11 in 41 minutes on the court. In the seven minutes he sat, the Thunder were a minus-15.”

Tom Ziller of SB Nation with much of the same in regards to Westbrook: “If Westbrook plays with such a monopolistic style that he takes 43 of the Thunder’s 97 shots in a game, and 22 of the Thunder’s 34 shooting possessions in the fourth quarter, this Oklahoma City team cannot win — not with Westbrook forcing attempts against good help and straight-up defense. If Westbrook doesn’t play like that, if he passes more and relies on his teammates to take the bulk of shots, this Oklahoma City team cannot win. The Thunder are doomed if he does and doomed if he doesn’t.”

Tim Bontemps of the Washington Post on Westbrook: “But herein lies the conundrum that comes with how one views Westbrook’s game. To achieve those numbers, Westbrook shot the ball a staggering 43 times — including 11 times from three-point range, along with 18 free throws — in 41 minutes. His usage rate (meaning the percentage of offensive possessions he was involved in) was a staggering 54.7 percent, and comes on the heels of averaging a record 41.7 percent during the regular season. In other words: To put up the numbers he did Wednesday night, as well as this season, Westbrook turned the Thunder into the closest thing a basketball team can be to a one-man team. And, by extension, that means this: Either Westbrook is doing what he has to do to carry the sorry cast of characters that surrounds him, or he’s been far too controlling of the game and his team, unwilling to trust them to do what’s necessary to help him win games.”

Brett Dawson on Doug McDermott’s injection into Game 2: “It wasn’t enough in Oklahoma City’s 115-111 loss Wednesday at the Toyota Center, and the Thunder fell behind 2-0 in the best-of-seven Western Conference first round. But McDermott logged 14 minutes and scored 11 points, more than he’d scored in his four previous playoff games combined. “I knew I could have an impact on this series,” McDermott said after the game. “I know my shot’s always gonna be there, and they have to respect that. I take away some pressure from Russell (Westbrook) and Vic (Oladipo) and let them get (driving) downhill, and now we just gotta keep it going.”

Former Big 12 rivals Nick Collison and Hollis Price caught up with each while in Houston: “That’s crazy. Nick was one of my good boys, one of my good friends in college. We got to know each other on the Playboy All-American photo shoot and also at the Jordan Camp. But playing against him, Nick’s been a professional since when he was in college. He’s always had the same demeanor and work ethic that he has now. And it shows, because he’s been in the league so long, what value he has to the team.”