Perhaps the pivotal turning point in this years playoffs is the injury of Russell Westbrook. Unlike teammate Kevin Durant‘s Sports Illustrated cover, Russell Westbrook’s injury could not have come at a worse time. In a year in which Russell set career highs in rebounding, assists, points, and games started, it seems like great things were in store for the electrifying guard. However that idea didn’t come to fruition as Westbrook suffered a torn meniscus in his left knee in game 2 of the playoffs versus the Houston Rockets. Houston’s first year player Patrick Beverly has been criticized for the play in which he aggressively attempted to steal the ball near half-court causing Westbrook to twist his leg in an irregular motion. Westbrook’s injury which involved a collision between the two players is what Beverly called an “unfortunate situation” following the game. View the tape for yourself.
Prior to Westbrook’s injury, the playoffs looked promising in what seemed to be a year that Oklahoma City might contend for another NBA title. Yet since his injury, nothing has been the same. Perhaps opposing western conference teams no longer fear matching up with Oklahoma City as much as they once did. The loss of Westbrook leaves OKC without 23 points, 7 assists 2 steals and 5 rebounds of production; Every night. It might not sound like much, but these are good numbers. All-Star numbers. Numbers that replacement Reggie Jackson and reserve Kevin Martin must live up to in order to keep the Thunder afloat. Can OKC win without Westbrook? Yes they beat the Rockets in game 3 104-101. But I don’t believe they will be able to do it for any longer than the 2nd round.
I think it’s safe to say the road to the Larry O’ Brien trophy just got easier for every team in the West. Teams That Look Good: Clippers, Warriors, Spurs. For the simple fact that the Clippers have perhaps the deepest bench in the west, I like their chances. They posess the resilience to overcome adversity in many aspects of a game. For these reasons I like the Clippers. Golden State. Wow. It would be wrong not to mention that Stephen Curry is among the leagues premier players; Period. He’s single-hadedly carried the Warriors all season and through the first round up until this point. And a well-deserved round of applause for first time Head Coach Mark Jackson; Great Job. As long as these guys are shooting well, they’ll be fine. San Antonio: What more can I say, they made a fool of the Lakers in every single game. Whether it was just the horrifying play of the Lakers or the Spurs dominance, they look extremely dangerous. Teams That Won’t Survive: Thunder, Rockets, Grizzlies,
Lakers. OKC won’t survive because believe it or not they actually rely on Russel Westbrook’s explosive play more than you think. Reggie Jackson is good, but he’s not Russell. Kevin Durant will continue to light it up but ultimately he will run out of help and Serge Ibaka might cry. I honestly believe the Houston Rockets are the worst team on the west side of the bracket simply because they count on James Harden too much. And without Jeremy Lin, Harden has no one else to decoy for him. Although Chandler Parsons has mountains of potential and athleticism he has yet to tap into, he continues to play like a role player. And for these reasons, Patrick Beverly and the Rockets won’t be seeing the 2nd round either. Memphis is among the best teams in this years playoffs. So why do I have them exiting before anything good happens for them? They’re playing the Clippers, it’s as simple as that. And although they’ve proven that they can beat L.A., they’re going to have to beat them on the road. That ain’t happening, at least not this year. But I will give credit where credit is due, big ups to the Grizzlies for handling themselves so well this season after shipping away key pieces like Rudy Gay, O.J. Mayo and Marreese Speights. They’ve managed to rebuild and recover rather quickly. Oh, I almost forgot, the Lakers. Congratulations on making the playoffs, I honestly didn’t think you could do it. It’s been a good run (Laughs).
* In the end, I’m still taking the Indiana Pacers vs (Whoever dares to get in their way). That’s right, the Pacers will be NBA Champs. And for all the Heat bandwagoners, I say this. You heard it here first, the Miami Heat will contend for a title only one more time.