By: Addam Francisco
The Oklahoma City Thunder kept their playoff hopes alive after a huge 101-90 victory over Portland Monday night at the Peake. The player everyone is looking at and praising is Russell Westbrook. Yes, Russell Westbrook, the player that everyone was down on following the loss in Indiana Sunday afternoon, despite him scoring a career-high 54 points and just shy of his twelfth triple double. Against Portland however, he was brilliant, scoring 36 points and collecting 11 rebounds and adding seven assists to that. He also shot 13 of 27 on the night.
The key to this victory was definitely out-rebounding Portland 58-35. It seems like the fact that we just shot 4 of 21 from the three point line didn't even matter. We contained Damian Lillard who averages just over 20 points per game to 10 points off 3 of 9 shooting. Enes Kanter had another one of his double-double performances with 27 points and 13 rebounds.
This is how the Thunder need to continuously play if they want any chance of beating the Golden State Warriors in the first round of the playoffs and especially during the rest of the playoffs. I strongly believe that if the Thunder play like they did today, with an average shooting night and with Serge Ibaka healthy, they can beat any team in the league. People having been raving about the Thunder’s bench being the best bench in the league, being the only team that can go 11 players deep. Every player in our 11 or 12 man rotation would be a huge part of any other team in the NBA. There are just some games I believe that everyone may not be at their best, or a few players may be tired and in result, the whole team kind of slacks off in a way. This is something thats definitely going to have to change going into the playoffs.
Since January, Russell has proven that he is a serious candidate for the leagues MVP, I think he is the leagues MVP to be honest. Think about where OKC would be if there was no Russell Westbrook this season. With the help of teammates of course, he is the ringleader and I think we can all agree that he’s been the main reason that the Thunder are even fighting for eighth place right now and not in the bottom of the Western Conference. You can’t say that about any of the other MVP candidates. If Cleveland didn't have Lebron, they wouldn't be a championship team but they would still be a playoff team. Without Stephen Curry, Golden State would still be a playoff team in the Western Conference and Houston would still be a good team without James Harden. OKC would suffer far more than any other team without their star player. That sounds like Russell is pretty valuable now doesn't it? I think if the Thunder can manage to limp their way into the playoffs, Russ should win it. He’s already in a neck-to-neck fight with harden for the NBA’s scoring title so if he does all of that, why not give him the MVP award?
Oklahoma City is now 44-37, tied with the New Orleans Pelicans for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference, but the Pelicans are technically ahead of them because they own the head-to-head tiebreaker by winning the season series to the Thunder 3-1. We will have to win against Minnesota (16-65) on Wednesday and the Pelicans will have to break the Spurs 11-game winning streak to clinch a spot in the playoffs.