Russell Westbrook’s minute limit might continue into playoffs

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The Thunder are playing Russell Westbrook less than ever. They’re even sitting him in some back-to-backs.

It’s all designed to maximize his availability for the playoffs.

Oklahoma City is a legitimate championship contender. There’s no sense risking Westbrook’s health until it matters most.

But given how serious every hit to the knee Westbrook absorbs seems, maybe the Thunder must still remain cautious with Westbrook once the postseason begins.

Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman:

The Thunder are better when Westbrook plays (offensive rating: 110.5/defensive rating: 102.4/net rating: +8.1) than when he doesn’t (106.0/99.3/+6.7). That’s boosted by playing more than 85 percent of his minutes with Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka, but those players have chemistry together. They should share the court often.

Don’t buy into the talk that Westbrook hurts the Thunder by taking the ball from Durant, either. Westbrook’s aggressiveness definitely opens space for Durant. There are rocky points when they play together, but dealing with those beats the alternative of not having two top-10 players.

Reggie Jackson has been a solid fill-in, but he’s not as good as Westbrook. The more minutes the Thunder have Westbrook available in the playoffs, the better off they’ll be.