Well...That escalated quickly. What looked like an easy series sweep for the Thunder turned into a dog fight for OKC. This series exposed some big flaws for the Thunder and puts their chances of repeating as Western Conference Champions in serious jeopardy. We will get to those issues a little later but lets start where we always start on Beyond The Arc.
Buffy Summers Award (Series MVP) - Kevin Durant
Kevin Durant is clearly the best player on the Thunder. Hands down. Russell Westbrook is the heart and soul of the team. He sets the tone for the team's aggressiveness and fearlessness. He gives the Thunder the edge that championship clamber teams must have to win. When news of Westbrook's injury and that he would be out for the remainder of the playoffs it was on Durant to step up enough more than usual and he did just that.
For the series Durant averaged 32.5 points, 48.5 FG%, 7.8 rebounds, 6 assists, and 3.5 turnovers. In the last four games of the series (post Westbrook injury) Durant averaged 35.5 points, 51.1 FG%, 9.3 rebounds, 5.8 assists, and 4.5 turnovers. When his team needed him most Durant stepped up in the way great players do.
Tom Haverford Award (Best Supporting Player) - Serge Ibaka
In the series vs. the Rockets Ibaka posted 13 points, 50 FG%, 8.3 rebounds and 3 blocks per game. He has been the only consistent interior defensive presence for the Thunder.
Danger Zone Award - Russell Westbrook
Before he was injured in game 2 of the series vs. the Rockets, Russell Westbrook took OKC's new favorite person to hate, Patrick Beverley to the DANGER ZONE!!!!!!
How Did That Shot Go In Award - Kevin Durant's Three in Game 3
I mean really...how in the hell did that shot go in?
Taylor Swifting Award - Kevin Martin's Game 5 Performance
His final line for that game:
3 points, 1-10 from the floor and 0-5 from three, 4 rebounds and 2 assists. If there was ever a performance that deserved to be called Taylor Swifting it is this one.
Kill Bill Award - James Harden game 5 vs. Thunder
Yuuuup.....pretty much speaks for itself.
Prometheus Award (Biggest disappointment) - Russell Westbrook Torn Meniscus
I have been a huge fan of everything that there is about Russell Westbrook for many years. Him being out for the remainder of the playoffs was a giant kick-punch to the sack. One of my favorite stats/record is Westbrook's consecutive games played streak. It ended with the injury in the playoffs but his regular season games played streak is still intact but it just won't be the same.
Thunder got a giant reality check of what life is like without Westbrook running along side Durant. I did take a little pleasure in knowing that the "Westbrook hurts Durant's game because he shoots too much" group were dealt a giant dose of crow right now.
Walter White Empire Scale - 6
Even before Westbrook's injury there were some flaws that began to show for the Thunder. Mainly the horrible defense. Ibaka is a really good shot blocker but one really good shot blocker does not a defense make. As a team the Thunder's defense has been pretty crappy. In the series vs. the Rockets the defense failed to hold leads and allowed Omer Asik to live in the lane via the pick and roll game.
Without Westbrook the Thunder's title chances took a serious hit. In the NBA if you have one superstar you can make it to the finals. See Allen Iverson and LeBron James with the Cavs. To win a title you need two superstars or two guys playing at superstar level. See The Heat, Spurs, Lakers, and the Celtics. The exception to the superstar rule are the 2004 Detroit Pistons.
The Thunder now fall in the one superstar category. Russell Westbrook is a top three point guard along with being a top ten player in the NBA. There is not a way to replace him at this point in the season. I like Reggie Jackson and all but he can't even come close to filling the void let by Mr. Westbrook. The Thunder still have an outside shot of making the NBA Finals but it is going to take some Man Of Steel type play by Kevin Durant. The series vs. the Grizzlies is going to be a tough task for the Thunder to overcome.
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