Russell Westbrook is doing everything in his power, and then some, to keep the Oklahoma City Thunder in the playoffs, and it still might not be enough.
Tonight, in a pivotal game against the Indiana Pacers, Westbrook scored 54 points on 43 shots (21/43) and they lost, 116-104. For those who think 43 shots is too many for Westbrook, despite the fact he also had eight assists and nine rebounds, not to mention that no one else on the Thunder can score worth a lick, well, Westbrook has a message for you.
For some unknown reason, Westbrook still gets tagged as a gunner, even though that’s not true. It’s more accurate to say that Westbrook is a high-volume player. He racks up assists and rebounds, steals and blocks at an extremely high rate in addition to the shots. And, with the Thunder’s roster as decimated as it is, they need Westbrook to attack and shoot.
Unfortunately, for as magnificent as Westbrook was tonight, he still failed to lift the Thunder’s playoff chances. Currently, Oklahoma City is tied with the New Orleans Pelicans for the eighth seed in the Western Conference. The Pelicans lost tonight, but so too did the Thunder; the standings didn’t change. Unfortunately, the Pelicans hold the tiebreaker, so OKC will have to win out and hope New Orleans drops one of their last two.
What makes matters worse for the Thunder is that Westbrook was charged with his 16th technical tonight, which results in an automatic suspension for the next game. The Thunder will likely appeal the technical, but they play the Portland Trail Blazers tomorrow, and it’s doubtful an appeal can be processed that fast.
The Pelicans play the worst team in the Western Conference tomorrow night when they travel to Minnesota. The Thunder face that same Minnesota team on Wednesday with their playoff fate in the balance. On Wednesday, New Orleans will be facing the mighty Spurs, winners of their last 11 and fighting to secure the No. 2 seed in the West. So the Thunder get Portland tomorrow night when the Pellies get Minnesota, and the roles are reversed on the last night of the season.
At the start of the year, even with news of Kevin Durant’s Jones fracture, the thought of the Thunder missing the playoffs seemed ludicrous. Yet here we are, with two games left in the season, and what was once thought to be impossible could very well be a reality: the Oklahoma City Thunder might be done on Wednesday even with Russell Westbrook’s heroics.