By A. Suave Francisco
The redundant storyline of the season is Russell Westbrook and how he's literally carrying this team on his back straight to the Western Conference playoffs. As you may have already guessed, he did it once again and his clutch fourth quarter to propel his team passed the flaming hot Memphis Grizzlies may have been the most impressive showing he's had in a quarter all season.
Although Westbrook's team played exceptionally well Friday night, following three embarrassing double-digit losses in a row, the Grizzlies seemingly pushed a button, turning their offense on overdrive during the third quarter against OKC's second team. It wasn't until Westbrook checked in during the fourth quarter that we started to see a significant shift in momentum.
Entering the fourth quarter, he only had 19 points and was one rebound shy of his 25th triple-double of the season. However, he ended up scoring 19 points in the fourth quarter, bringing his final stat line to 38 points, 12 assists, and 13 rebounds. The offensive explosion was unbelievable, but somehow he still managed to get one more assist, four more rebounds and joined his team in stepping the defense up immensely. In the final three minutes of the game, Russell alone went on a 15-0 run to close the game out for the 114-102 victory.
Endings like these are why the Thunder faithful have to live with the shots he puts up. Sometimes, yes, the questionable shots he takes down the stretch don't go in, but then there are times like these when he somehow puts and "I" in team, and beats an entire squad on the offensive end by himself. Even with three-time All-Defensive First Team, two-time All-Defensive Second Team Tony Allen guarding him and giving him very limited space, Westbrook found a way to maneuver around with the ball and ultimately got a shot off.
Clutch moments like these and shot selection forces you to link Westbrook with two other players (in the last couple decades) and that's Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan. Especially Kobe, by the way of his shot selection; not always great-looking shots to the average man, but totally justifiable in their minds and who am I to argue with that? I've never once closed out a game with a personal 15-0 run in my life, and he's doing it on the highest stage of basketball.
Oklahoma City has something very special and sometimes I wonder if fans realize it. He's been here since the team moved here, so that's all the city knows and although everyone cherishes him, more than any player in Thunder history, it's easy to see where his greatness is taken for granted at times.
Westbrook will have a chance to tally his 26th triple-double of the season at home on Sunday against the (22-28) Portland Trail Blazers, who have had a very disappointing year by their standards, but still are a dangerous team, threatening Denver for the eighth and final Western Conference playoff spot.