After a collision tore the meniscus in Russell Westbrook's right knee during the second game of the playoffs, the Oklahoma City Thunder have won just three of the following seven playoff games without their All-Star point guard.
Given time to reflect on how much the Thunder have changed without Westbrook, Kevin Durant finally spoke up about how he's felt playing without his star teammate (via The Oklahoman's Darnell Mayberry):
Asked Kevin Durant what he's learned about himself in the absence of Russell Westbrook. "That we need him," he said. "We miss him."— Darnell Mayberry (@DarnellMayberry) May 13, 2013
Oklahoma City is currently in a 2-1 hole in the second round of the playoffs, looking up at the Memphis Grizzlies and in danger of being eliminated earlier than expected.
In those seven playoff games without Westbrook, the team has averaged just 96.7 points per game. Compare that to the 112.5 per game it averaged in two playoff games with Westbrook in the lineup and the 105.7 per game throughout the regular season, and his absence is evident.
Of course, a lot of the lack of scoring can be attributed to the fact that they're currently matched up with the Grizzlies, one of the league's best defensive teams.
Over the course of the postseason, Durant has gone from averaging 26.5 points on 20 shots in the first two games to picking things up, registering just under 23 shot attempts and 34.0 points in the past seven contests.
He's shouldering a much larger load while the rest of Oklahoma City does everything possible to pick up the slack around him.
Reggie Jackson has stepped in to do a fine job in Westbrook's place, but the second-year point guard just hasn't had the time on the court to exhibit the maturity that Westbrook brings.
Not only that, but they're also in a situation where Durant is the only viable isolation option to turn to with the clock running down. Durant is more than capable of scoring, but defenses know he's getting the ball, and they tend to make it harder on him without Westbrook on the court.
In a way, Durant is just reiterating what we've all watched over these past seven games.
Westbrook might take a few too many shots from time to time, and a handful of those shots might be errant jumpers, but that doesn't detract from the fact that he's a true basketball talent.
Without him, Oklahoma City lost a dimension, and its prospects of making it past the second round of the playoffs—let alone back to the NBA Finals—have dwindled mightily.