Welcome to the Twilight Zone!
It’s a place where the league’s 6th ranked offense in terms of points scored (Lakers), will be sporting a starting lineup that includes Andrew Goudelock, and Darius Morris. A place where the Golden State Warriors lose their All-Star Power Forward for the season, yet follow that news by out-rebounding the league’s 2nd-best rebounding team, en route to evening their series with Denver AND ending the Nuggets’ 24-game home winning streak. The most bizarre scene will be the Oklahoma City Thunder playing games without their floor general, Russell Westbrook.
It’s been well-documented that Westbrook hasn’t missed a single basketball game….for his entire life! Not high school, college, or professionally. Russell is a machine that works at a speed that’s two gears faster than everyone else’s.
Once word started spreading of the shocking news, a sudden realization began to manifest itself (with all due respect to Westbrook, who everyone is hoping for a quick and successful recovery): who’s left to challenge the Miami Heat? Actually, forget about the Heat – who’s winning the Western Conference?
The Thunder started the playoffs as 4:1 favourites to win the championship (Miami’s odds are currently 1:2). Westbrook’s injury knocked them down to 7:1 odds, which is the same as San Antonio’s odds (previously 9:1).
Who’s taking Westbrook’s spot in the starting lineup? That’s easy because Scott Brooks can just insert James Hard…..oh, that’s right. Okay, at least he’s still got Eric Mayn….oh, forgot about that too. So, that leaves Reggie Jackson, who had never started an NBA game in his career (until last night).
The result was a pretty mediocre performance (keeping in mind he’s got some huge shoes to fill). Jackson had 14 points, including two nail-in-the-coffin free throws to ice the game. Jackson also had only one assist, three turnovers, and a -9 rating (worst among all Thunder players). Kevin Durant picked up the slack, as expected, tying a playoff career high 41 points, while taking his second-most shot attempts this season.
Oklahoma City had only one other game this season with similar assist totals (under 15) AND Durant hoisting 30+ shots – a 3-point overtime victory over the lottery-bound Dallas Mavericks. Taking into consideration that they’ve just squeaked by one of the worst defensive teams in the NBA (28th in points allowed), who had a rookie point guard making his second career start, the Thunder’s outlook moving forward is grim, at best. How will they advance past the next round, when either the league’s second-best defense (Memphis) or the league’s best point guard (Chris Paul) await?
This writer can’t help but feel like we’re all just going through the motions before Miami’s coronation. No, this is no longer the Twilight Zone. This is the NBA’s new reality!