Apr 24, 2013; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant (35) is helped from the floor by Thunder guard Russell Westbrook (0) in action against the Houston Rockets in the second half during game two of the first round of the 2013 NBA Playoffs at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Westbrook out Indefinitely: Impact on the Western Conference Playoff Picture

Game 2 of the series between the Oklahoma City Thunder and The Houston Rockets turned out to be a close and hard fought battle. Rockets coach Kevin McHale opted to go with a small lineup, starting three guys 6’5 and under. One of who, Patrick Beverly, was a surprise start who proved to be a factor on several fronts, recording 16 points on 7 of 13 shooting, 12 rebounds, and 6 assists. Moreover, he was aggressive defensively and frustrated Russell Westbrook on several plays. Unfortunately, it is Beverly’s sideswipe on Westbrook in the second quarter that might have the biggest impact on this series and the playoffs as a whole. That same knee later revealed a meniscus tear that will sideline Westbrook indefinitely
following surgery.

The recovery time from a meniscus tear is difficult to predict. Lakers Small Forward, Metta World Peace, returned two weeks after surgery while other players have taken much longer. Playing style could also prove to be a huge factor in a players return. Westbrook relies more on his speed and explosiveness much more than a bigger body, like World Peace, and a knee injury could make changing speed and direction increasingly difficult for a player with Westbrook’s arsenal. Tee Thunder though have stated that Westbrook WILL BE OUT FOR THE REST OF THE PLAYOFFS, closing the door on any hope of return no matter how far the Thunder advance.

It is difficult to predict how the Thunder will fare without the three-time All-Star. Westbrook has played in 394 consecutive games and has started all but the first 17 of them. Rookie Reggie Jackson will start in his place but will not be responsible to produce at Westbrook’s level. The Thunder have plenty of talent, (*cough cough Kevin Durant cough) but there is no question that they will miss Westbrook’s presence on the floor especially on the defensive end of the floor. Kevin Durant will get more attempts and could easily average 40 points a game but who will pressure the other team’s main ball handler. The remaining West teams all have upper tier point guards including the best in the league: Chris Paul.

If the Clippers can bounce back from a winless trip to Memphis and win 2 of the next 3 games they would face the Westbrookless Thunder presuming the Thunder win one more game against the Rockets. The Clippers have matched up well with the Thunder the past few seasons and not having Westbrook could make a Clippers road to the Western Conference Finals realistic. The Thunder entered the playoffs as the favorite to win the Western Conference and predictions of a rematch with the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals were widespread. Westbrook’s injury certainly casts some doubt on this forecast and could open up
the west. Injuries have plagued this NBA season and now add Russell Westbrook to the list of Kobe Bryant, Derrick Rose, Kevin Love, David Lee, Danilo Gallinari & Danny Granger.

Credit: Co-author Russell Green

Tags: Kevin Durant Los Angeles Clippers NBA Playoffs Oklahoma City Thunder Russell Westbrook Western Conference

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