Russell Westbrook’s Success In Playoffs Is Spurs Next Test

By Michael Rehome
Apr 21, 2016; Dallas, TX, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook (0) yells at the officials during the second quarter against the Dallas Mavericks in game three of the first round of the NBA Playoffs at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 21, 2016; Dallas, TX, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook (0) yells at the officials during the second quarter against the Dallas Mavericks in game three of the first round of the NBA Playoffs at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports /
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Oklahoma City Thunder’s Russell Westbrook has become one of the league’s most dynamic players.

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Westbrook this season has been making noise. Whether it be his sideline antics showing off his dance moves or his play on the floor, there is no denying that he has a lot of heart and lays it all on the line. Love him or hate him, Westbrook is a prolific player and one that can take over a game in a heartbeat.

In the 2014-15 playoffs, Westbrook averaged 26.3 points per game against the Spurs. He had a breakout game of 40 points and 10 assists in a win that would help Oklahoma City tie the series at two games apiece–that would not be enough as they would drop the next two.

Many teams around the league hope they can get the best out of their players once they hit the post-season. Westbrook has stayed consistent throughout the year. In his career, Westbrook’s playoff averages are off the charts–24.3 points, 6.1 rebounds, 7.0 assists and 1.7 steals per game. You can’t knock his talent.

Westbrook will surely be keyed on heavily during his teams second-round matchup against a familiar foe in San Antonio. In his career, Westbrook has faced San Antonio 12 times in the playoffs, winning six meetings.

Seeming to be in rare playoff form already, Westbrook and the Thunder are coming off of a series with the Dallas Mavericks where he seemed to have his way. Averaging 26 points per game, Westbrook capped off his team’s last win with a 36 point outburst–he was one assist shy of notching a triple-double.

What the Mavericks could not do was find an answer for Westbrook and Kevin Durant. In steps the Defensive Player of the Year Kawhi Leonard and the supporting cast of the Spurs. San Antonio will be able to do what the Mavericks could not and that is throw different defenders at Westbrook and company.

Danny Green can at least recover and contest against Westbrook with more room for error than any Maverick could, even if his cross-matched coverage is an imperfect solution. What matters most is taking away the express options of Durant and Westbrook shooting over the top of the defense or blowing by a defender without the aid of a screen. San Antonio won’t be as vulnerable in those ways, forcing OKC’s stars to earn every clean look they get.

Westbrook will be targeted. Head Coach Gregg Popovich being the defensive genius that he is will find ways to throw Westbrook off his game, or at least try to. As the Spurs have to take the game out of two of the Thunder’s stars, forcing them to put up contested shots will be key.

Westbrook and the Thunder kickoff the second round at the AT&T Center on Saturday as game one tips off at 8:30 PM Eastern.

Next: Semifinal Opponent: Oklahoma City Thunder

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