The Grizzlies continued their out-of-nowhere, Drake-like roll Sunday, beating the Thunder 114-101 in Oklahoma City in what everybody expected to be a runaway OKC victory.
Zach Randolph had another great night (34 points, 10 rebounds), Marc Gasol had his third consecutive double-double, and the Memphis bench continued to play over its head like an 8-year-old in the deep end. But the main factor in this game, to me, was Russell Westbrook’s selfish play down the stretch.
Thunder fans can deny this reality all they want, but Westbrook is a ball hog and it’s killing his team.
Consider this fact: Westbrook has taken more shots than Kevin Durant in four of six Thunder playoff games this postseason despite playing six minutes per game less than Durant.
Now figure this: Westbrook has yet to shoot over 40 percent in any game this postseason. Six games. 23.8 points per game. Not one of them a respectable shooting night. Meanwhile, Durant is shooting 47.1 percent from the field in the playoffs, including 43.2 percent from three.
Now put it to the eye test: Westbrook is taking too many contested looks, especially down the stretch. He’s forcing it. It’s obvious. Everyone can see it but the apologists.
Even his highest percentage shots, those around the rim, are forced. He’s getting two and three hands in his face, yet he’s still pulling the trigger. He thinks he’s Kobe, but he doesn’t have the game to pull it off.
In the short span Westbrook was on the bench in the fourth quarter Sunday, the Thunder went on a run. When he came back, they sputtered. It’s no coincidence. He’s slinging more rock than Biggie in the 80s. And it’s not working.
There are many reasons the Grizzlies are playing well in the playoffs, but the most important reason is their unselfishness. They move the ball incessantly, play great team defense and feed the hot hand. They’re on the same page at all times, executing Lionel Hollins’ gameplan. It’s beautiful to watch, and they’re winning because of it.
OKC has the personnel to play the same way. 4/5 of their starting lineup are team guys — Durant, Serge Ibaka, Kendrick Perkins and Thabo Sefolosha are as unselfish as they come. But Westbrook is holding them back. As talented as he is, he’s not one of those “take over the game any time I want” kind of guys.
The problem is he thinks he is. He has an Inception-like plant in his brain, and every time it grows it hurts his team a little more.
The Grizzlies are going to keep playing good, solid team basketball. The Thunder need better, more unselfish play from Westbrook or else they’re going to lose.
In other words, somebody call Dom Cobb.