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With last nights 88-84 loss, Kevin Durant and the top seeded Thunder were eliminated from the playoffs.

Last season, Oklahoma City reached the NBA Finals before losing to the Miami Heat in 5 games.

The Thunder’s chance of making it back to the finals took a serious blow in the first round when Russell Westbrook tore the meniscus in his right knee. Without Westbrook, the Thunder just didn’t have enough offensive firepower to get past Memphis’ tough defense.

Russell Westbrook might be the most scrutinized player in the NBA. He averaged 23.2 points, 5.2 assists, and 7.4 assists per game this season, and was stilled ripped apart by virtually every basketball analyst out there after every game.

However, after watching the Thunder play without him, I’m pretty sure that Westbrook’s haters are all hiding under rocks now.

Even though I thought the Thunder were still the favorites to win the West without Westbrook, I have always been one of his bigger supporters.

Most analysts said that the Thunder should trade Westbrook for a pass-first point guard. I wonder if they still feel that way today.

Russell Westbrook is the perfect complement to Kevin Durant. Does he sometimes take ill-advised shots when he could dish it to an open cutting teammate? Yes, but so does every great scorer in the NBA. Is his shooting percentage a little lower than you’d want (44%)? Yes, but he shot the same percentage as James Harden and only 1% lower than Carmelo Anthony and those two don’t get nearly the same amount of  criticism from the media for shooting a low percentage.

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At the end of the day, Westbrook’s ability to score the basketball is what keeps opposing teams from double or triple teaming Kevin Durant on every possession. It  is what keeps Durant fresh throughout the game. It is what makes opposing defenses collapse in the paint, which opens up open three-point attempts for Kevin Martin and Thabo Sefolosha. It is what opens up easy dunks for Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins. It is what allows Scott Brooks to give KD some rest throughout the game, instead of playing him just about 45 minutes per game. It is what makes OKC’s offense so deadly.
Kevin Durant is the Thunder’s best player and scorer, but Russ is the best scoring 2nd option in the NBA. He and Durant form the best 1-2 punch in the NBA as well.

This series proved that Durant cannot single-handedly out score a good team. KD’s production declined as the series went on because he didn’t have any energy left. He was run straight into the ground.

So after watching this series, you’re going to tell me that a pass-first point guard is the answer to this team?

Absolutely not. Westbrook is the perfect complement to Durant on this current Thunder team.

There’s a reason that OKC was 60-22 in the regular season when both Durant and Westbrook were healthy, and only 2-6 in the postseason when Westbrook is out.

So to all the Russell Westbrook haters out there, please shut up.

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Follow me on Twitter: @mlukes14

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