For the Oklahoma City Thunder, the preceding week produced a star-crossed triad of insult, disappointment, and injury that coincidentally aligned with a nightmare scheduling scenario.
Oklahoma City has plodded along their mandatory six-game estrangement from Chesapeake Energy Arena. Meanwhile, cornerstone Steven Adams has missed OKC’s previous two contests due to a concussion brought about by DeMarcus Cousins' unsavory tactics during a pyrrhic Jan. 15 Thunder victory over Sacramento.
With his team trailing in the third quarter, a frustrated Cousins blatantly thrust Adams to the hardwood. Following this curiously unpunished incident, the downed seven-foot center was placed within the NBA’s concussion protocol.
There is no update yet concerning Adams’ status for Monday’s tilt vs. Utah. Minus Adams, Oklahoma City has lost two consecutive —while being outscored 119-80 in the paint.
A full return to health from OKC’s freshly re-signed enforcer would provide an essential defensive boon for a team allowing 119.6 ppg during its previous three encounters.
Case in point: Adams’ presence places Oklahoma City’s DEFRTG at 104.1 (a shade better than #8 Charlotte). Conversely, without Adams’ lumbering occupation, the Thunder yields 113.4 pp100p — or 2.8 pp100p more than league-worst LAL.
Get well soon, Steve.
As seen below, nearing the conclusion of a competitive first-half, unheralded Golden State veteran Zaza Pachulia took undue liberties with Russell Westbrook.
Pachulia was assessed a Flagrant 1 foul for his actions, and fortunately Russ suffered no lasting damage from the contact. However, Pachulia’s grandstanding over a downed Westbrook prompted Russell to convey these impassioned post-game remarks:
"He hit me kind of hard," Westbrook said. "But it's all right. I'm gonna get his a** back. Straight up."
Just another dramatic narrative thrust within the already Shakespearean plot between the 2016 Western Conference Finals combatants. No doubt, Thunder fans will be clamoring for Zaza’s Feb. 11 appearance in OKC.
Let’s briefly examine the historical impact of Russell Westbrook’s rarefied 16-17 statistical data.
- 21 triple-doubles through 44 contests (most since 1976 NBA/ABA merger)
- Averages 30.6 ppg, 10.6 rpg, 10.4 apg
- Currently leads NBA in ppg, ranks #2 in apg, and #11 in rpg
- Leads NBA in PER (29.5), usage rate (41.9), Offensive Box Plus/Minus (9.5), Overall Box Plus/Minus (13.9) ,and Assist Pct (41.9). Also ranks in the league’s top ten in Defensive win shares (9) and overall win shares (10)
- Is averaging a triple-double later in the season than any player since Oscar Roberson in the mid 1960’s
Additionally, the above-mentioned lines coincide with the 25-19 Thunder outperforming a projected current win-total by a +2 margin.
Yet, unfathomably, when the Western Conference’s All-Star starters were named off Thursday night, Westbrook’s name was not spoken. This glaring omission sparked a furor that set the internet ablaze.
With all the mishaps, misfortune, and misadventure of the past week, at least the Thunder is currently enjoying a four-day breather before jumping back into the deep-end vs. Utah this upcoming Monday night.
Ultimately, the manner in which Oklahoma City handles its recent adversity could determine whether this season unfolds as a relative success or failure. Without question, these are the times, and circumstances, that define franchises.