43 points. Seven rebounds. Five assists. Russell Westbrook was pure and complete brilliance for 46 minutes.
And then he made the biggest mistake of his career.
Westbrook played the best game of his professional career, in a game where the Thunder needed each and every point, rebound, assist and play to hang with Miami after the Heat survived the Thunder’s hot start. Westbrook was fearless, relentless, and deliberate. He got to the rim, he got the mid-range jumper going, he helped his team respond to every huge shot from Miami.
And then, right when it was right there for him to change the story, quiet the critics, this happened:
In no way should this loss be put on Westbrook’s shoulders. They would have been buried beneath the Heat’s offense without Westbrook. It was a mistake, one of several the Thunder made, but just one. James Harden’s inability to convert anything resembling a major play was worse. Derek Fisher’s layup attempt that was blocked, leading to a Lebron James conversion at the other end was worse. Serge Ibaka’s rotation defense was worse. They were there, with a chance to win, because of Westbrook. It drifted past because of Westbrook, and because Scott Brooks was unable to prepare the team to be ready for how the clock functions in that scenario.
That’s how things break in a Finals this close.
Call out the defense, call out the coaching, praise the Heat.
But don’t bring this on Westbrook’s shoulders. They carried too much in Game 4.