Fair? Not necessarily.
Russell Westbrook? Absolutely.
Westbrook frenetically led the Thunder to a 95-91 win over the Spurs Tuesday, causing chaos all the way through two controversial calls in the final seconds of Game 5.
Oklahoma City inbounded up one with 9.3 seconds left, San Antonio primed to intentionally foul. Westbrook took the pass, drove past Kawhi Leonard (who appeared to make sufficient contact for a whistle) and made a layup over LaMarcus Aldridge (who was called for a foul but not might have deserved one).
Westbrook hit the free-throw to make it a two possession game, practically clinching a 3-2 lead for the Thunder as the series heads back to Oklahoma City for Game 6 Thursday.
“My job is to stay in attack mode,” Westbrook said. “And they didn’t blow the whistle. My job is to keep going to the basket.”
Teams leading a best-of-seven series 3-2 have won 85% of the time, though this second-round matchup isn’t over. Able to close a series in a home Game 6, teams have won 66% of the time – solid, but less overwhelming, odds.
No matter how you precisely slice the Thunder’s chances, Westbrook (35 points, 11 rebounds, nine assists, eight turnovers and two steals) played a major role in putting them in this advantageous position.
Oklahoma City probably would’ve won even if the refs called the take foul on Leonard.
“I definitely fouled him,” Leonard said. “But the referee, I guess he didn’t see it.”
Westbrook made 81% of his free throws this season, and he could’ve put the Thunder up three. Teams up three – or even two or one – with nine seconds left usually win.
But the Spurs never got that last chance they probably deserved, though Dion Waiters – who somehow also got to throw the fateful inbound to Westbrook – ridiculously contested a Danny Green 3-pointer at the buzzer to test the limits of the term “two-possession game.”
That was one of many times the Thunder lived on the edge, and three Westbrook three 3-pointers made stand out as wild shots. San Antonio will probably allow those deep treys, but Westbrook made them – and they made the difference.
Westbrook also over-passed, playing into the Spurs’ the ball-hawking led by Leonard (26 points, six rebounds, four assists and five steals). One of Oklahoma City’s 20 turnovers led to Leonard dunking on Westbrook to put the Spurs up six with four minutes left:
But Durant (23 points, +7) did enough, and so did a few role players: Steven Adams (12 points and 11 rebounds, +11), Enes Kanter (eight points and 13 rebounds, +8) and Waiters (nine points on five shots and two assists, +18).
The Thunder particularly dominated when pairing Adams and Kanter, a riddle San Antonio still hasn’t solved. Oklahoma City was +15 in 17 minutes with those centers sharing the floor, rebounding 61.5% of its own misses and clearing 84.2% of the Spurs’ misses on the other end.
So, the Thunder made up for Westbrook’s errors – all part of the package. But, mostly, they followed his lead – all the way to one game from the conference finals.
“Russ,” Durant said, “was a maniac tonight.”