Tuesday Bolts – 4.25.17

Sean Fennessey of The Ringer is the contrarian: “Hating Westbrook is foolhardy, I understand. It makes a person seem stodgy and unfun. It recalls the culture wars over Allen Iverson, another low-efficiency, high-emotion player who inspired thousands of fans. An anti-Westbrook campaign smacks of a scolding, old-world, back-in-my-day-ism. But that’s not my pretense for disliking Westbrook, nor is it the foundation for the argument. This is an aesthetic repulsion. They say that styles make fights, but in the case of the whirring, score-happy Thunder-Rockets series — which has amassed 881 points in four games — Oklahoma City has revealed a complete absence of style. They’re awful to watch, and, despite his power to thrill, the reason is Russell Westbrook.”

Brett Dawson: “To advance to the second round, the Thunder needs two road wins. For now, it has to focus on one, and that figures to be a challenge. In the regular season, OKC forward Andre Roberson shot 8 percentage points worse from the floor on the road than at home. Victor Oladipo’s 3-point percentage had a similar dropoff away from home. Roberson has picked up his play in the postseason, but Oladipo — whose play was solid in Oklahoma City — is averaging 8.5 points on 19.2 percent shooting on the road in this series. If the Thunder hopes to play beyond Wednesday, Westbrook will need a boost from players who haven’t been at their best on the road.”

The real reason OKC stinks without Westbrook.

Roger Sherman of The Ringer on OKC with Westbrook sitting: “The answer is crueler. Normally, the Thunder play four players alongside Westbrook. He is capable of destruction, slamming rims into nonexistence; he is capable of creation, making the majority of the team’s points, even the ones he doesn’t score. When he leaves the court, he is replaced with two players who probably don’t belong in the NBA. They are point guards, and therefore hypothetically capable of filling Westbrook’s role, but calling Westbrook a “point guard” doesn’t quite capture what he does or how he does it. He’s a driving demigod. Replacing him with a player trying to play point guard is like putting the regular engine from a used PT Cruiser in a Formula One race car.”

Wright Thompson on Pat Riley.

Berry Tramel: “But the truth is, to extend this season past Tuesday night, the Thunder likely will need more from Westbrook. The Thunder is going to need a great fourth quarter from its superstar. In Game 2 and Game 4 defeats, the Thunder lost fourth-quarter leads. Westbrook in this series has averaged 1.0 assist a game and shot 31.6 percent from the field. Those who say Westbrook has resorted to hero ball are wrong. As much as anything, his Thunder ‘mates have stagnated and too often looked to Westbrook to single-handedly save the day. That’s not likely to change until his core of mostly 25-and-younger players grows up a tad.”

Zach Lowe of ESPN.com: “Billy Donovan has struck a lot of the right chords since Game 1: more shooting around Russell Westbrook, more Taj Gibson at center, less Enes Kanter, no Semaj Christon. The Thunder lost Game 4, and probably their season, by four points. They were outscored by seven points in 2:19 at the end of the first quarter in which both Westbrook and Victor Oladipo were on the bench. How is this still happening?”

Dionnnnnnn!

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