OKC Thunder: Why Russell Westbrook Can't Play Like He Did in Game 4, Win Title
Russell Westbrook just put together one of the all-time great NBA Finals' performances with 43 points, seven rebounds and five assists.
If that's not impressive enough, though, Westbrook also scored 17 of the Thunder's final 23 points, and he managed to do that while shooting an impressive 62.5 percent from the field.
While that performance is what NBA legends are made of, it's not the kind of performance the Oklahoma City Thunder need if they plan on winning the 2012 NBA title.
That might sound quite outlandish, because Westbrook put his team on his shoulders when no one else wanted to, but the way Westbrook played took his teammates out of their game, and it ended up costing the Thunder greatly.
While I'm not necessarily blaming Westbrook for the Thunder losing 104-98 in Game 4, there's no doubt the way he played impacted the game in a negative way near the final minutes.
Westbrook's 32 field-goal attempts was impressive, but it meant Kevin Durant would only get 19 attempts and James Harden would get just 10, which just isn't enough if the Thunder want to knock off the Heat.
Now, Harden and Durant certainly didn't help their cases by combining for a below-average 37.9 percent from the field.
It's certainly possible Westbrook decided it was time to take over when he saw Harden and Durant struggling, but in some respects, Westbrook's focus on offensive production played a part in getting Durant and Harden out of their offensive flow.
I'm not opposed to players going off for 40-plus points and carrying their team, but there's a fine balance between doing that and also finding ways to keep their teammates integrated in the offense and focused on the progression of the game.
Did Russell Westbrook's play keep players like Kevin Durant and James Harden from finding an offensive groove?
With 4:05 left in the game, after Durant gave the Thunder their final lead with an 18-foot jumper, Westbrook went on to take three of the Thunder's six final shots, while failing to integrate Durant back into the offense until there was just 13 seconds left with the Thunder down five points.
There's no question Westbrook's play carried the Thunder on Tuesday night, but it unquestionably also held them back, specifically down the stretch.
Durant, who was the 2012 scoring champ and one of the most clutch players in the NBA, was left running around trying to get touches, rather than taking the clutch-time shots that he's used to taking.
The Thunder absolutely can't beat the Heat without a balanced offensive attack, and we saw that first hand when we watched Rajon Rondo drop 44 points on the Heat in the Celtics' 115-111 overtime loss in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals.
The Heat certainly know how to win games when they're facing an opponent led by the offensive production of just one player.
The times when the Heat struggle are when they are facing teams that play like a team, focusing on the all-around production of all the players on the court. We saw that in the Heat's second-round series with the Indiana Pacers and against the Thunder in Game 1 of the 2012 NBA Finals.
If the Thunder want to stay alive in the finals, they must resort back to playing like a team and stop trying to rely on explosive offensive production of one player.
Again, Russell Westbrook isn't to blame here, but there's no way the Thunder can beat the Heat if they play like they did on Tuesday night.
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