Remember how Russell Westbrook had to have a second knee surgery to clean up a loose stitch and that was going to force him to miss the first month of the season or so?
What they meant was two games.
Westbrook has cleared all his medical benchmarks and is physically ready to go, so he will play Sunday night at home when the Thunder host the Phoenix Suns, tweets Darnell Mayberry of the Oklahoman. He has been out since tearing the lateral meniscus in his right knee during the first round of the playoffs last year against Houston.
There had been reports of him looking good in practice for a week but the Thunder have been cautious with their timetables. They didn’t want to rush him back, they need him right.
Oklahoma City started the season 1-1 without Westbrook, relying on the Kevin Durant show to win games, but they are vastly more dangerous with Westbrook on the court as an option. The Thunder don’t exactly run complex, Spurs-like sets, they just rely on you not being able to match up with their stars. That worked to the tune of 60 wins last season, thank you very much.
Expect a little rust on Westbrook, no matter how he has looked in practice and workouts it’s not the same as game speed (just ask Derrick Rose, although his ACL was a more serious injury). Plus, the Suns have played surprisingly good defense in their first two games (opponents are shooting 38.6 percent overall and 30.2 percent from three).
Still, in a deep West where lost games could hurt playoff seedings, his speedy recovery is huge.
The Rockets were feeling it the first half in Game 6.
Playing with an energy the Warriors lacked at least in the first quarter), Houston defended well, pushed the ball in transition, and then they just drained three after three after three.
Eric Gordon started 4-of-4 from three and the team was 11-of-22 in the first half, which made up for the 11 turnovers and had them up 17 at one point and ahead by 10 after the first half.
Steve Kerr has been searching for a couple of games now for his fifth guy.
With Andre Iguodala out there is no Death/Hamptons 5 lineup and Kerr is looking for a fifth guy to partner with his four All-Stars. Kevon Looney is starting, Jordan Bell is showing potential but also makes some rookie plays, Nick Young has been bad enough that Kerr trusted Quin Cook more at the end of the last game (and Cook missed his looks).
Kerr is going to have to keep searching for a guy in Game 6 because Iguodala is out again.
The Warriors are not the team heading into Game 6 with the most significant injury woes, the Rockets are without Chris Paul. That and the fact the Warriors’ backs are against the wall is the reason they are heavy favorites in Game 6.
However, the Warriors have not been the same without Iguodala. He is a playmaker who can control the ball and settle things down, makes the right decision, get the player and ball movement the Warriors have strayed too much from back, plus is one of their best defenders on James Harden. Nobody else on the roster can do that.
And if Game 6 gets tight late, the Warriors are going to miss those skills. As they have in the last two games.
Game 7s are not pretty basketball. Everyone is tight, shots clank off the front of the rim, and players tend to think rather than just react, sucking the flow out of the game. It’s a game for grinders.
Marcus Smart is good with that, and he told Chris Forsberg of ESPN the team is preparing for this style.
“It’s not going to be pretty. You got to be able to get down and get dirty. You can’t go out and try to look pretty. You have to be ready for a dogfight. We got to be ready to come up with our nose bloodied. We got to be ready to come out with our mouth bloodied. We have to come out ready to fight.”
If Boston is going to win this game, they will do so with the physical, smart, and unrelenting defense that carried them all season. That’s their grit. Without Kevin Love (out with a concussion) the Celtics have one less scorer to worry about, but things do not necessarily get dramatically easier — LeBron James is going to get his buckets, but can the Celtics keep George Hill, Kyle Korver, J.R. Smith and the rest of the role players from helping out with big nights of their own.
Which one of these teams is better positioned to win a grinding, sloppy game? Who is willing to dive on the floor and give that little extra effort? A case can be made either way, but Sunday night will decide it.
We haven’t seen Golden State’s Patrick McCaw on an NBA court since March 31, when he was undercut by Sacramento’s Vince Carter and took an ugly, nasty spill.
McCaw is finally cleared by the team doctors and will be active on Saturday night for Game 6 against Houston, reports Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.
The Golden State Warriors are planning to activate swingman Patrick McCaw for Game 6 of the Western Conference finals against the Houston Rockets on Saturday night, league sources told Yahoo Sports.
McCaw, on paper, would help the Warriors — he’s a 6’5″ switchable defender who can provide some offense in transition. That’s especially true if Andre Iguodala is out for Game 6 (his status is a game-time decision). McCaw played about 17 minutes a night for the Warriors during the regular season.
However, the idea of taking a second-year player who has not been on a court in six weeks and throwing him into Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals — a win-or-go-fishing game for Golden State — is risky, at best. Don’t expect him to get on the court unless this is a blowout.