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.
Report: Kyrie Irving picked Nets over Knicks because of Knicks management
Right now, it’s easy to see why. The lousy roster and finger-pointing are indicators of even bigger problems. It starts at the top with owner James Dolan.
Until Dolan sells the team (good luck with that) or hires an executive capable enough to overcome Dolan (i.e., not Steve Mills, Phil Jackson or Steve Mills), the Knicks will be fighting an uphill battle.
Following a gruesome leg injury that robbed him of a couple of years of his career, Gordon Hayward was finally starting to look and feel like himself — like the All-Star from Utah the Celtics thought they were signing. Hayward averaged 18.9 points per game, shot 43.3 percent from three, pulled down 7.1 rebounds, and dished out 4.1 assists per game. He was a playmaker Brad Stevens could lean on.
Then Hayward fractured the fourth metacarpal bone in his left hand on a fluke play. Hayward had surgery to repair it and will be out for six weeks.
According to the Celtics: Gordon Hayward has been diagnosed with a left hand fracture. Here's the play where it happened: pic.twitter.com/Vwd3FpJsfS
“Like I said, happy that it shouldn’t be that long. Obviously frustrated — it sucks watching and not being able to go out there and play, especially with the start that we’ve had. I think this time around, I’ll be able to run around, use my legs still, maintain my conditioning, which I’m very thrilled about and then be around the team, too. And kinda stay involved, which is good…
“I think we’ll take it, as cliche as it sounds, we’ll take it day by day and week by week and it’s one of those things that, once the bone is healed, then it’s kind of how much can you tolerate and how well does my body handle with the swelling, kind of how well it takes ramping up activities and doing different basketball things,” said Hayward. “Honestly, looking at the plan that we set up today and just kind of attacking each day. Hopefully, I’ll be back sooner rather than later.”
The 9-1 Celtics can afford to be patient bringing him back. No need to rush it. They are a deep and talented team, but they need Hayward at his playmaking and scoring best to be a real playoff threat. Hayward should be back around New Year’s Day, why risk his hand issues becoming chronic so he can play in games in December?
Hayward, a competitor, is not going to want to be patient. After everything he’s been through with injuries, hard to blame him.
Russell Westbrook on Patrick Beverley: ‘He don’t guard nobody, man. He just running around doing nothing’
After his Rockets beat Beverley’s Clippers last night, Westbrook fanned the flames.
Mark Berman of FOX 26:
Russell Westbrook (@russwest44)on Pat Beverley (@patbev21): “Pat Bev trick y’all man, like he play defense. He don’t guard nobody man. He just running around doing nothing..As you seen what happened 47. All that commotion and (@jharden) got 47.” pic.twitter.com/WaJ5D0Q1U5