Russell Westbrook And The Smirk That Launched A Thousand Threes
I'm guessing that Russell Westbrook isn't a big Jim Croce fan. Too bad. If he were, he'd know that you don't tug on Superman's cape, and all that. In the NBA words and body language matter -- no matter how many times players say they don't. And on Thursday when Westbrook responded to a question about Stephen Curry's defense with a dismissive smirk, that may have been the moment that sunk the Thunder for good.
OK, that's overstating things -- two crappy second halves for OKC had more to do with it. But Westbrook's post-game demeanor didn't help. And at this level, with differences between teams razor-thin, any little bit of motivation you give the other team could be fatal.
The Warriors had just beaten the Thunder on Thursday in Oakland to draw within 3-2 in the series, and ESPN's Michelle Steele asked both Kevin Durant and Westbrook if they thought Curry was underrated as a defender. Westbrook's response was to smirk, and laugh into his hand.
Later he went to the zoo and poked a tiger with a stick.
On the court Westrook is one of the most talented players in the league. Off of it he's an eighth-grader, a grown man who can't control his fidgets, his emotions or his words. The apologists who say "That's just Russ" are missing the point. That shouldn't be Russ. The Thunder will never take the next step (assuming Durant stays) until Westbrook grows the hell up.
After Westbrook offered his smirk-answer following Game 5, Curry torched OKC in Games 6 and 7 to put the series to bed. He scored 67 points in the two games (31 and 36 points), and was 13-for-26 on 3s. He had 7 3s on Monday, daggering the Thunder each time they tried to get the upper hand.
Curry has said that he doesn't care what other players say, but believe me, he saw Westbrook's reaction, and he cared.
Besides, the numbers don't support Westbrook at all. Huffington Post:
But as great as Westbrook’s been this series (28 points, 11 rebounds, 6.6 assists on average), Curry’s actually given him fits. According to ESPN’s Stats & Info, Curry’s been Westbrook’s primary defender for 25 of his shot attempts. On those plays, Westbrook has only hit 32 percent of them for 0.70 points per play. When anyone else on the Warriors takes on Westbrook, he’s shot 44 percent on 84 attempts, good for 0.97 points per play.
That was through Game 5. Westbrook, with Klay Thompson as his primary defender on Monday, scored 19 points on 7-for-21 shooting.
Moral of the story for you kids: take a hard look at the two photos at the top of this post. That's what happens when you disrespect the reigning, two-time MVP. A big part of the Warriors' success comes from the emotional maturity of their two stars. In that department, OKC is one star short.
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