Alyssa Michele

Russell’s Redemption

27.2 points per game, 8.4 rebounds per game and 8.1 assists per game. No that’s not LeBron James’ stat line nor Kevin Durant’s nor Paul George’s. Instead it’s Russell Westbrook’s. For all those claiming the Oklahoma City Thunder would be better off without him, stop now.

When OKC conquered the West last season and rode into playoffs as the favorites to make the Finals, all their hopes and dreams came crashing down with the injury to Russell Westbrook’s knee in game two of their opening series against the Houston Rockets. Although they won the series, the void Westbrook left was too big to fill and they fell to Memphis in five games in the second round.

While Durant has carried the Thunder to second in the West and the team’s fifth straight playoff appearance, shining brighter than he ever has and claiming his first MVP, Westbrook’s season hasn’t been quite so glorious. The player that everyone thought was invincible became human as he missed 46 games with reoccurring knee problems but has come into these playoffs with a vengeance.

Westbrook has been on a terror in this second round series against the Clippers and carried the team on his back in their comeback victory in game five. It was Westbrook who deflected the ball out of Paul’s hands and into the hands of Reggie Jackson leading to the controversial out of bounds call. Regardless of whether or not you may feel it was the correct call, it was Westbrook who created the opportunity and gave OKC a chance to win that game. With Durant so nervous he couldn’t even watch, it was Westbrook who hit three clutch free throws to give OKC the lead.

Yet despite all this there are still many who claim he’s still “selfish.” Westbrook is so selfish he’s assisting on 40 percent of his teams made field goals when he’s on the floor. By comparison only Chris Paul has a higher assist percentage this postseason. He ranks third overall in apg these playoffs and is second in total assists once again behind Paul.

If that’s not enough, he has six double-double’s and three triple-double’s so far in these playoffs. When it comes to triple-double’s everyone else has a grand total of zero. In addition, his shooting which has been sporadic at times in the past, looks as sharp as ever as he’s shooting 52.6-percent from the field against the Clippers. For the record, that is higher than Durant so far this series. He’s also shooting above his career average from the free throw line so far this postseason at 86.3-percent.

But he’s not just bringing the offense he’s also bringing the defense. He leads all point guards this post season in rebounds per game and it’s not close. At 8.4 Westbrook sits 3.3 rebounds per game ahead of Damian Lillard who come’s in second at 5.1. He leads his teams in steals at 1.7 and ranks fourth in total steals with 20. What may be equally impressive is that he ranks third in total offensive rebounds at 35, that’s one more than Blake Griffin. Only Robin Lopez and DeAndre Jordan have more and they stand at nine and eight inches taller than Westbrook. His athletic ability is slightly inhuman.

Westbrook is playing like a man a mission, a man who seeks to redeem himself after a season filled with doubt about his health and criticism once again regarding his value to OKC. If the Thunder are to make it back to the Finals, Westbrook will need to continue playing the well-balanced type basketball we’ve seen from him thus far. They look to end the Clippers tonight in game six setting up a date with San Antonio.

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