HOUSTON – On Sunday night, Russell Westbrook finished just three assists shy of opening the postseason with yet another triple double.  The expected MVP finished with 22 points (6-23), eleven rebounds, and seven assists [with a -25 in the box score, and nine turnovers], denied of the feat by his cold-shooting Thunder teammates.

Mr. Westbrook’s counterpart, Patrick Beverley, finished the game with 18 points (8/13 shooting), ten rebounds, and three assists.  Westbrook’s counterpart in the MVP race, James Harden, ended with 37 points, 9 assists, and 7 rebounds.

At the half, Westbrook was on pace to achieve the triple double, as he already had accumulated six rebounds and five assists.  By the end of the third, the result still seemed likely, as Westbrook added on four monstrous rebounds (bringing him to ten), and two more assists.  But in the fourth quarter, with his Thunder teammates going cold, Westbrook was unable to add to the assist total in the five minutes he played.  Had he stayed in for the full twelve minutes, perhaps it might have made the difference.

Lifting his Thunder team to the Western Conference’s sixth seed, Westbrook had the greatest individual season in NBA history, breaking Oscar Robertson’s triple double record, and finishing the season as the first player since Robertson in 1961-1962 to average a triple-double for the season.  It was a feat widely heralded as one most observers believed they’d never live to see and one which essentially clinches the MVP award for the Thunder guard.  Many believe that if Westbrook is able to duplicate the effort in the postseason, it would mean a de facto championship for Oklahoma City.

Entering Wednesday’s Game 2 matchup, Westbrook needs just 13 assists to get back on pace to his season’s triple double averages.  The Houston Rockets won game one 118 to 87.

in game coverage

Dekker out, Williams in?

  • Sam Dekker’s season is now over after breaking his hand last night in the Rockets’ win over Phoenix. Dekker achieved redemption in this, his sophomore season, supplanting Donatas Motiejunas’ ghost in Houston’s rotation, cementing himself as Mike D’Antoni’s backup power forward.  His final numbers of 6.3 points per game and 3.6 rebounds, with 32% shooting on 3’s, look rather pedestrian, but his play was cause for encouragement.  Dekker shot 39% on 3’s in November, forcing his way into the lineup and hopefully providing a glimpse of the player he can one day become.  Aside from February when he shot .375 on 3’s, Dekker shot poorly every other month, hopefully just from tired legs.  The season was a success, more in that Dekker proved he was worth the pick the Rockets used in selecting him.  But next year, and going forward, the Rockets will need Dekker to show actual consistency on his outside shot.
  • This may not be too great of a loss as I and others had speculated that Dekker would likely be out of the rotation anyway come playoff time.  For now, or if D’Antoni decides to extend his rotation past the limit he’s historically set, I’d surmise that recently recalled forward Troy Williams will take Dekker’s spot at backup power forward.  Mike D’Antoni has already said that Montrezl Harrell will not be playing the position.  Regarding Williams, I remain cautiously optimistic.  I thought Troy Daniels and K.J. McDaniels too had futures in Houston after the glimpses those players showed, in Daniels’ case in the playoffs.

in musings

On Tracy McGrady, the Hall of Famer 

  • I still get sad when I see the name Tracy McGrady.  I get sad when commemorative videos of his career default to the 13 in 33.  While that event no doubt was a remarkable spectacle, McGrady’s career was, and should have been, so much more.  If maybe not the punctuation of a title (the way discussion of Olajuwon is always followed by mention of the mid 90’s championships he won), at the least, McGrady’s career should have reflected a half-decade era of excellence, like Steve Nash’s run with the Suns.  Instead, just a fleeting half-minute, in an otherwise meaningless game that just happened to be on TNT.  I could possibly write a book on McGrady.  I’ve said previously that, in my opinion, nothing could ever exceed the excitement regarding his arrival to Houston.  He wasn’t hope and potential as was a then-23 year old James Harden when acquired for Kevin Martin; and he wasn’t on the downside carrying red flags as was Dwight Howard.  He was, at worst, the second best player in the entire league, in the heart of his prime, joining another top 10 player. 
  • The point is even further underscored now in light of last season’s divorce between the Rockets’ most recent superstar pairing, but the remarkable aspect of the Yao-McGrady marriage was that they actually got along.  McGrady picked Houston because of Yao, and while Howard did the same due to Harden, Yao was actually deferential.  Their games meshed and McGrady was content to feed Yao for most of the game until his own time came in the fourth.  The ‘what could have been’ does not just extend to health but also ‘what could have been’ had Daryl Morey been general manager at the time, littering the roster with the type of help he’s found every year for James Harden.
  • I tweeted the other night that quite a few promising young big men have sprouted up out of the ashes of late, in what seems to be sort of a mini-renaissance.  And I thought to myself watching Nurkic, the way I did watching Jokic: while Dwight Howard still provides value on the boards, and while Clint Capela has his weaknesses, it would be truly depressing right now to be committed long term to Howard at a max salary when his overall production is at best on par with some of these rookie-scale big men. 
  • I’m still in New York, without my laptop, and thus, no ‘week in review’ or ‘week ahead’ this weekend.  But here’s a preview and a recap for those who can’t live without those features: I’m so over the regular season, and I’ve been over the regular season for over a week. 

in uncategorized

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