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To say that Russell Westbrook has had a tumultuous postseason would be an understatement.
The versatile fourth year point guard has had his share of quality games, but at times, he has also looked out of sync with his team. Westbrook's numbers have been solid, he's putting up 21.7 points, 5.1 rebounds and 5.6 assists, but his shooting percentages are what troubles Thunder fans. Westbrook is shooting a decent, but not particularly impressive, 34.9 percent from three and just 43.6 percent from the field.
Westbrook is on average missing more than 10 shots per game, and for a team that relies heavily on developing an offensive rhythm, this is particularly bad. Missing shots is obviously never good, but when he dribbles the ball past the timeline and jacks up an ill-advised shot, it can disrupt the flow the team has worked hard to cultivate.
Westbrook is a pedestrian jump shooter, and yet he seems insistent on taking perimeter shots early in the shot clock instead of waiting for a better play to develop.
He has also had more difficulty drawing fouls than usual. Last postseason he attempted over eight free throws a game, but he is down to just over five in 2012. Westbrook's best asset is his athleticism and ability to break down a defense, but he is not doing that as well in the playoffs as he did in the regular season.
He was doing an excellent job keeping his turnovers down, averaging less than one per game against Los Angeles and just 2.5 against Dallas, but that number spiked to 3.3 while playing against the Spurs. Westbrook should've had a tremendous series; after all, he was being guarded by Tony Parker and Gary Neal, neither of whom are great defenders.
However, he had his worst run of the playoffs, averaging just 18.2 points on 37.8 percent shooting. The fact that he was unable to take advantage of a seemingly favorable matchup is troubling. His assists jumped to 7.3 per contest, which helped to offset his lack of scoring, but the team needs him to be efficient to win a championship.
Westbrook will primarily be matched up against Mario Chalmers, an improved player who has taken nice strides in his three-point shooting and dribble-drive game. He is no longer an offensive liability, and Westbrook will have to respect him.
He will also spend time being covered by Dwyane Wade who, despite his own inconsistencies, is still a quality defensive guard who will be able to disrupt what Westbrook does offensively while being a nuisance offensively thanks to his driving ability and deceptive shot fake.
My prediction is that Russell Westbrook's up-and-down postseason trend will continue, with him having more poor performances than quality games against Miami this year. He will still be effective at times, but not to the level the Thunder need him to be against the Heat's vexing defense.