Westbrook Wills OKC To Steal Series Lead From Spurs
When Russell Westbrook flips the switch, he's unstoppable. In Game Five against the San Antonio Spurs, he went beastmode to help OKC steal the series lead.
Gregg Popovich threw his best individual defender in the game, Kawhi Leonard (the runner-up for NBA MVP), at Westbrook, but he still went off for 35 points(12-27 FG, 8-8 FT), 11 rebounds and nine assists. He was too much to handle, and he iced the 95-91 victory by playing through contact for the game clinching and-one. The Spurs thought they fouled him before the shot attempt, but the whistle never came.
Westbrook's and-one capped off a 13-3 run to end the game, and he wasn't apologizing for playing through a non-existent whistle.
"I just keep going until the whistle blows. My job is to keep in attack mode, and they didn't blow the whistle," Westbrook said.
Popovich saw things slightly different after the loss. He said Leonard clearly fouled Westbrook before he got the shot off, but he wasn't going to waste time pouting.
"Not every call gets made. That's just the way the game is," Pop said in his postgame presser. "Sometimes you get a call, sometimes you don't. It happens to everybody. Tough game."
That makes two straight tough losses for the Spurs, after they jumped out to the 2-1 series lead. Their Game One victory was so resounding (124-92), it was hard to see OKC swinging the momentum back in their favor like this. Westbrook and Kevin Durant smell the blood in the water now.
Westbrook's athleticism is proving an unsolvable puzzle for the Spurs. When he's not destroying defenders one-on-one in the open floor, he's crashing the boards to steal offensive rebounds from San Antonio's post players.
His rebounding in Game 5 was a constant nuisance to a team trying to hold back two of the game's best players.
"You got to want it. That's all I can say," Westbrook said about crashing the glass.
It's safe to say Westbrook wants it more right now. Just look at poor Patty Mills trying to stop him in transition.
Beyond that, Popovich can't blame the loss on a foul call that never happened. That play occurred after Tony Parker missed a free throw that would have tied the game at 92-92. The ensuing possession, Danny Green stripped Durant, and the Spurs had a chance to take the lead. Parker missed his jumper to take the lead, and OKC got the ball back with under ten seconds left with a one point lead. The Spurs had a chance to take the game, and they couldn't convert.
Thursday night, the Thunder have the Spurs right where they want them, back in OKC and one game away from elimination.
To make matters worse, the Spurs look like they're fading. Tim Duncan has been a non-factor all series, and Leonard, LaMarcus Aldridge and Danny Green were the only three San Antonio players in double-figures for Game Five. With the momentum on the other side, San Antonio looks overextended and tired trying to keep up with Westbrook's energy and Durant's scoring sense.
For everybody that penciled the Spurs and the Warriors into the Western Conference Finals before the playoffs started, this is why you let the drama unfold. The fun is just getting started, NBA fans.