NBA Playoffs Day 5: Westbrook Just Can’t Win

8:00 pm – Whew, that was a close one! It was a late night at work, and I was worried I was going to miss the start of our first game on TNT. Well, here I am, just in time for Game 2 between the Rockets and the Thunder. Game 1 turned out to be a dud in the battle between James Harden and Russell Westbrook. Harden’s Rockets ran away with a big win, and Westbrook had a rough game, so you know he’s going to look to come out strong. He’s already dressed for the occasion…

8:06 – Banished to NBA TV tonight: Game 2 between the Wizards and the Hawks. I enjoyed watching John Wall and Markieff Morris raise hell during the third quarter of Game 1, but I’m also okay with not having to watch the Hawks tonight. A quick check at the score in Game 2 seems that the Wizards are ahead, 42-36, with 4:37 left in the first half.

8:09 – We’re welcomed to the Toyota Center in Houston by our play-by-play narrator, Kevin Harlan. He’ll be joined by Reggie Miller. You can’t win them all.

8:10 – The Thunder win the opening tip, and we’re underway in Houston.

8:11 – Steven Adams makes a nice pass to Andre Roberson, who streaks through the paint for a dunk to give the Thunder an early 2-0 lead.

8:12 – Trevor Ariza prances to the hoop for a layup, tying us up at two.

8:16 – James Harden throws up a lop to….nobody. It’s picked off by Westbrook, and at the other end of the court, he finds Andre Roberson for a layup. Houston calls a timeout as Kevin Harlan says, “a step groggy, and a step slow look the Rockets!” He’s not wrong. The score’s Oklahoma City 16, Houston 4 with 7:37 left in the opening quarter. All five Thunder starters have scored, with Westbrook stepping up his distribution game with four assists already. Meanwhile, the Rockets are off to a 1-7 start from the floor. It couldn’t have been a better start for the Thunder.

8:21 – James Harden draws a foul shooting a three, giving me a perfect opportunity to run to the bathroom while he shoots his free throws.

8:25 – It’s halftime down in Washington…

8:27 – Eric Gordon nicely blocks a Russell Westbrook shot, and after the ball goes out of bounds, we’ll have a timeout with the score Oklahoma City 24, Houston 13 with 3:51 left in the first quarter. The Rockets are still shooting poorly, at just 4-15 from the field. Their vaunted three point attack has backfired so far tonight. They’re off to an 0-6 start from beyond the arc.

8:32 – Breaking News!

That’s our second game tonight, and it’ll go on without Kevin Durant. The Warriors certainly rolled on without him down most of the tail end of the regular season, but will this be an absence the Blazers can take advantage of?

8:40 – Lou Williams knocks down a three with just 0.05 seconds left on the clock to bring the first quarter to an end. Our score: Oklahoma City 35, Houston 26. The Rockets got a good spark off their bench, getting 17 points from the trio of Nene, Eric Gordon and Lou Williams. They needed it, as the starters combined to shoot just 2-14 from the field. For the Thunder, Russell Westbrook’s looking more like himself than he did in Game 1. He’s got 12 points, 6 rebounds and 4 assists already.

8:44 – Lou Williams misses a layup, corrals the rebound, and puts in a second chance basket to cut the Rockets gap down to 35-28 to kick off the second quarter.

8:48 – More injury news for our late game…

8:50 – We’ve reached the TV timeout after a lively start to the second quarter. It’s Oklahoma City 46, Houston 40 with 7:54 left in the first half. The Rockets bench continues to slice away at their deficit, particularly Lou Williams, who’s suddenly up to 14 points on 6-7 shooting.

8:56 – Russell Westbrook unleashes some spiffy moves to get to the basket for a layup, and the Thunder are on a 7-0 run to take us into a timeout with the score Oklahoma City 55, Houston 44 with 6:16 left in the first half. I’m not even going to try and describe the moves Westbrook just showed off. I’m just gonna hit you with that embedded video…

By the way, Russell Westbrook is already up to 16 points, 7 rebounds and 8 assists.

9:07 – After the ball heads out of bounds, we have a timeout with the score Oklahoma City 64, Houston 54 with 2:19 to go in the first half.

9:13 – They’re heading into the fourth quarter in DC…

9:14 – We’ve reached the end of a high scoring first half with the score Oklahoma City 68, Houston 62. James Harden has decided to just take the ball to the hoop on every possession, and it’s helped the Rockets get back in the game, as Harden seems to either score, draw a foul, or dish the ball off to a teammate for an easy basket. He’s been to the free throw line twelve times already, and he’s hit them all, and leads Houston with 16 points and 6 assists. Lou Williams came off the bench to score 16 as well.

Russell Westbrook’s been running the show for the Thunder, so much so that he already almost has a triple-double with 22 points, 8 rebounds and 10 assists. If him and Harden can continue their exploits, we’ll be in for a very entertaining second half, as long as you don’t mind free throws.

9:19 – It’s time for tonight’s initial episode of Today in Playoff History, brought to you by Basketball Reference!

Back in 1971, the Baltimore Bullets defeated the defending champion New York Knicks in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals in what must have been an exciting 93-91 victory.

Dick Barnett led the Knicks with 26 points, and Willis Reed added 24, but Earl Monroe matched Barnett with 26 to lead the Bullets, and Jack Marin added 20 for Baltimore, as they were able to pull off a rare Game 7 victory on the road, and in Madison Square Garden, no less.

The win advanced the Bullets to the NBA Finals, where they were swept by the Milwaukee Bucks. I have to say, I wish the Bullets were still called the Bullets, and I wish they still played in Baltimore. (Sorry, Wizards).

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9:29 – As we continue to look towards our next game, here’s what Steve Kerr had to say about Kevin Durant…

9:34 – A pair of Russell Westbrook free throws gets us our first points of the second half, and it puts the Thunder up, 70-62.

9:40 – Ryan Anderson, who’s been struggling all night, takes it to the basket for a big two-hand slam! We’ll have a timeout with the score Oklahoma City 75, Houston 68 with 8:41 left in the third quarter.

9:52 – After securing a rebound, the Thunder take a timeout, and not a moment too soon, I could use the break from Reggie Miller. Anyway, the score’s Oklahoma City 86, Houston 74 with 3:15 left in the third quarter. The Rockets continue to be cold from beyond the three point line, shooting just 4-16. To make matters worse, James Harden is just 2-10 from the floor, though he is 16-16 from the free throw line. Russell Westbrook on the other hand, has 36 points, 9 rebounds and 11 assists.

9:55 – We’re going to have another timeout with the score still Oklahoma City 86, Houston 74, this time with 2:20 left in the third quarter. Obviously, not much has changed here, but we do have a final score down in our nation’s capital…

9:59 – With Westbrook on the bench, the Rockets are suddenly on a 7-0 run, capped off by a tough, off balance runner from Lou Williams. It leads to a timeout with the score Oklahoma City 86, Houston 81 with 1:04 left in the third.

10:01 – James Harden gets to the bucket for a layup, and that Rockets run is up to 9-0, and that Thunder lead is down to three, at 86-83.

10:02 – Victor Oladipo knocks down a three, and the Thunder get their lead up to 89-83. James Harden comes back with a three of his own, and it’ll take us into the fourth quarter with the Rockets on a 12-3 run to make the score Oklahoma City 89, Houston 86.

James Harden heated up at the end of the third quarter, and he’s suddenly up to 28 points. Russell Westbrook still has 36, 9, and 11, just a rebound away from a triple-double. He was able to get some rest at the end of the quarter, but at the expense of the Thunder’s double digit lead. We could be in for a furious finish.

10:06 – A Doug McDermott three provides us with the first points of the fourth quarter, increasing the Thunder lead to 92-86. Westbrook’s back into the game while James Harden starts off the quarter on the bench, getting some rest of his own. Can the Thunder take advantage as they were just taken advantage of when their star rested?

10:11 – Russell Westbrook just grabbed a rebound, securing his sixth career Playoff triple-double.

10:12 – After Patrick Beverly goes 1-2 from the line, we’re back to a three point game with the Rockets trailing, 94-91. On Houston’s next trip down the court, Beverly throws up a lob for Clint Capella. He doesn’t throw it down, but he is fouled, and it’ll take us into a timeout with 8:56 remaining and the score unchanged.

10:15 – Eric Gordon goes down the lane for a layup, and the Rockets are on a 7-0 run and are within one, trailing 94-93.

10:16 – Gordon knocks down a three, and the Rockets have their first lead of the game!

They’re up 96-94, but it’s short lived, as Russell Westbrook gets a shot to roll in, tying us at 96 and putting him at 40 points.

10:17 – Lou Williams knocks down a three, and the Rockets retake the lead! Enes Kanter follows with a bucket in the paint, and Houston’s lead is 99-98. Soon after, James Harden reenters the game.

10:18 – Russell Westbrook gives the Thunder the lead back with a jumper, as Kevin Harlan yells, “What a riveting performance by Westbrook tonight!” However, James Harden euro-steps his way to the hoop for a layup, and the Rockets to back ahead, 101-100.

10:19 – We’re going to have a timeout with the score still Houston 101, Oklahoma City 100 with 5:52 left in a fast paced, razzle-dazzle fourth quarter.

10:23 – With the shot clock winding down, James Harden knocks down a deep three to give the Rockets a 104-100 lead!

10:24 – Russell Westbrook misses a three from the corner, but Andre Roberson is able to tip in the miss, and the Thunder keep it close, down 104-102.

10:25 – Russell Westbrook starts a drive into the paint, and he draws the fifth foul on James Harden with 3:40 left in the game. Can he avoid fouling out with the game on the line?

10:26 – After Ryan Anderson misses a three, Patrick Beverly and Russell Westbrook both go for a rebound, and Beverly hits Westbrook across the face, and that’ll be his fifth foul. We’ll have a review as the refs take a look at whether or not we have a flagrant foul, which means we get to experience the worst thing in the NBA today: Reggie Miller during a review. How many times do you think he can tell us that he thinks that it’s just a common foul? The sky’s the limit with Reggie.

10:28 – It is indeed a common foul, and it puts Westbrook at the free throw line as the Thunder are in the bonus. He hits both of his free throws, and we’re tied at 104. Westbrook’s got a career Playoff high of 44 points so far.

10:29 – James Harden knocks down a couple of free throws, and the Rockets take a 106-104 lead as we go under three minutes remaining in the ball game.

10:30 – Eric Gordon finds Patrick Beverly in the corner for a three! “Right between the eyes!” exclaims Kevin Harlan. Reggie Miller ruins it by telling us that the Rockets have “too many weapons” for about the 498th time tonight. The Rockets lead, 109-104.

10:31 – After Westbrook misses a three, we’ll have a timeout with the score Houston 109, Oklahoma City 104 with 2:09 left in the game. Despite his gaudy numbers, Westbrook has been struggling with his shot here in the fourth quarter, something which I’m sure will be talked about at great length if the Thunder end up losing the game.

10:34 – Eric Gordon knocks down a three, and the Rockets lead is up to 112-104! They’re on an 8-0 run.

10:35 – Westbrook then thinks he’s drawn contact for a foul, and launches a horrendous three. The problem is, the refs don’t agree, and the Rockets get a fast break layup attempt out of it. The layup is goaltended, and the Thunder need to take a timeout with the score Houston 114, Oklahoma City 104 with 1:22 remaining. It’s been an unfortunate sequence for the Thunder.

10:37 – The refs miss what should have been a backcourt violation against the Thunder, and Westbrook gets a three pointer out of it, but OKC’s down, 114-107.

10:38 – After Andre Roberson blocks a layup attempt from James Harden, Westbrook is fouled on the other end of the court taking a long two pointer. As the fans start a “REFS, YOU SUCK!” chant, Westbrook misses his first free throw. He hits the second one, and the Thunder trail, 114-108. Westbrook, by the way, has broken the NBA Playoff record for points in a triple-double. He’s up to 48.

10:40 – Russell Westbrook is now shooting 3-17 in the fourth quarter. Jesus.

10:42 – Steven Adams fouls James Harden with 1.9 seconds left on the clock, and the Rockets leading 115-111. Harden misses his first free throw of the night…and then his second, and that’s how this game comes to an end.

All right, once again, our final score from the Toyota Center: Houston 115, Oklahoma City 111. James Harden, after struggling from the field in the first half, came alive in the second half, finishing with 35 points and 8 assists, while going 18-20 from the free throw line. Eric Gordon came off the bench to add 22, and not to be outdone, Lou Williams poured in 21 off the bench.

Russell Westbrook broke the NBA Playoff record for points in a triple-double, springing for 51 points, 10 rebounds and 13 assists, while shooting 17-43 from the floor. While Harden saved his best for last, Westbrook saved his worst, shooting 4-18 in the fourth quarter while the Thunder relinquished the lead they had held all game long.

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It’s unfortunate his fourth quarter was so lousy, because it overshadows what really was a tremendous performance. However, the criticism he’s going to face is more than fair. He somehow simultaneously did all he could, and all he couldn’t, culminating in a disappointing loss and a 2-0 series deficit. What makes it more glaring is that, while Westbrook’s game suffered, Harden’s came alive, as he led his team down the stretch to victory.

10:46 – We’re welcomed to The Oracle in San Francisco by the welcome sight of Marv Albert and Brent Barry. It’s time for Game 2 between the Warriors and the Blazers. Portland was able to hang with Golden State for the first three quarters of Game 1, before they were put away by the superior Warriors. Kevin Durant, Shaun Livingston and Matt Barnes will be out tonight with injuries. Patrick McCaw steps into the starting lineup, replacing Durant. Meanwhile, Jusuf Nurkic remains out for Portland.

10:48 – The Warriors win the opening tip, and we’re underway out in Oakland.

10:49 – Zaza Pachulia finishes off a fast break with a layup, putting the Warriors on the board first. Maurice Harkless answers with a three for the Blazers, and they take an early 3-2 lead.

10:54 – We have our first timeout as the Warriors have gone on an 11-0 run, punctuated by a Steph Curry three. With 7:26 left in the first quarter, it’s Golden State 15, Portland 9.

11:02 – That Warriors run is now up to 18-2 after Klay Thompson gets an easy shot under the basket. The Blazers have to take another timeout with the score Golden State 22, Portland 11 with 5:19 left in the first quarter.

11:08 – After the ball goes out of bounds off Allen Crabbe, we have another timeout with the score Golden State 27, Portland 15 with 2:44 to go in the first quarter. After a lights out performance in Game 1, CJ McCollum is shooting just 1-6 to begin Game 2. The Blazers really can’t afford anything less than what they got from him, and Damian Lillard in Game 1, where they combined for 75 points….and still lost. Yeah, it’s not looking good for Portland, is it?

11:18 – The first quarter comes to an end with a score of Golden State 33, Portland 17. The Blazers are shooting just 6-21 from the field, and they could be in for a long night. Steph Curry’s shooting just 2-7 for the Warriors, but the rest of the squad is at 11-16 shooting. Draymond Green’s orchestrating the show, with six rebounds and six assists already. Damian Lillard has ten points to lead the Blazers, but his teammates have combined to shoot a horrific 2-13.

11:22 – Al-Farouq Aminu opens up the second quarter with a three for the Blazers, and they trail 33-20.

11:25 – After the ball goes bouncing out of bounds off the Trail Blazers, we have a timeout with the score Golden State 37, Portland 26 with 9:07 to go in the first half.

11:32 – David West finds Andre Iguodala with a nice pass for an easy dunk to take us into another timeout. The score’s Golden State 41, Portland 33 with 6:41 left until halftime. Despite the lack of defense on the previous play, the Blazers have shown some life recently, cutting their deficit to as low as six on two occasions.

11:39 – Evan Turner finds Maurice Harkless alone underneath the basket for an easy dunk, and the Blazers have made a game of it. It’s Golden State 43, Portland 39 with 4:01 left in the first half as the Warriors have gotten a little careless.

11:42 – Klay Thompson streaks through the paint, then dumps a pass off to JaVale McGee for a layup, plus a foul. First, we’ll have a timeout with the score Golden State 48, Portland 42 with 2:56 left in the half.

11:45 – In case you were wondering how Russell Westbrook feels about his big stat line tonight…

…meanwhile, back in Oakland, JaVale McGee hits his free throw, and the Warriors go up, 49-42.

11:49 – Steph Curry misses a three at the buzzer, and our score at halftime is Golden State 55, Portland 46. After the Trail Blazers got close, JaVale McGee, of all people, provided a big spark as the Warriors rebuilt their lead. McGee played some great defense, and threw down a couple of lobs to get the crowd, and his teammates, back into the game. He leads the Warriors with 13 points on 6-6 shooting in just eight minutes of play. Draymond Green has but three points, but he’s racked up 9 rebounds and 8 assists.

Maurice Harkless leads the Blazers with 15 points, 5 rebounds and 4 blocks, and Damian Lillard added ten. CJ McCollum continues to struggle, shooting 3-11 for seven points.

The Blazers are doing their best to hang around. At first, it looked like this was going to be a boring game, a blowout worth falling asleep during. Instead, the Blazers fought back, and if McCollum can find his shooting touch in the second half, things could really get interesting.

11:55 – Time for our second episode of Today in Playoff History!

Back in 1981, the Philadelphia 76ers held off the Milwaukee Bucks in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals with a 99-98 victory. Julius Erving led Philly with 28 points, and Bobby Jones contributed with 21. It helped offset a 36 point performance by Marques Johnson, who got help from Bob Lanier and his 24 points. With the victory, the Sixers moved onto the Conference Finals, where they lost in seven games to the Boston Celtics.

Sounds like this was probably a hell of a game. Let’s get it, and that Game 7 from 1971 we talked about earlier, onto NBA TV’s Hardwood Classics.

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12:08 am – Steph Curry gets things started in the third quarter with a three pointer, increasing the Warriors lead to 58-46.

12:10 – Steph Curry gets a steal, then takes it all the way down the court for a layup, and the Blazers need a timeout. Our score’s Golden State 62, Portland 46 with 10:12 left in the third quarter. Draymond Green’s up to ten rebounds and ten assists on the night.

12:15 – Draymond Green is down on the floor after taking a hard foul from Meyers Leonard. Looked like Leonard was just trying for a block on Green’s layup attempt, but he ended up reaching across and hitting Green right across the face. Draymond finally gets up and heads over to the Warriors bench during the ensuing review, and looks fine.

12:17 – After the refs review the play, they decide that it’s just a common foul. Green hits his two free throws, and the Warriors have their largest lead of the night at 66-48, thanks to a 23-6 run.

12:23 – CJ McCollum flies in to grab a rebound, and as he lands with the ball, his foot goes over the baseline, and that’ll be a turnover. It’s been that kind of night for McCollum, who’s shooting just 4-14 from the floor so far. A timeout is called with the score Golden State 66, Portland 52 with 6:31 left in the third quarter.

12:30 – JaVale McGee spins to the bucket for an easy layup, and the Warriors are really pouring it on the Blazers right now. It’s Golden State 73, Portland 52 with 4:18 left in the third.

12:40 – A dominant third quarter comes to an end with a score of Golden State 83, Portland 58. The Warriors outscored the Blazers 28-12 in the quarter. After combining for 75 points in a sterling Game 1 performance, Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum have joined together to contribute 21 points on 9-33 shooting here in Game 2.

12:44 – Marv Albert just told us that the Warriors are on a 40-16 run.

12:46 – Struggling to stay awake.

12:48 – Ian Clark hits a little shot to get the Warriors lead up to 29. Our score’s Golden State 89, Portland 60 with 10:23 left in the game. I definitely missed Clark’s shot because my eyes were closed.

12:59 – Still awake, kind of. We’re at a timeout with the score Golden State 98, Portland 66 with 5:51 left in the game. One reason for excitement, for me anyway, is that after tonight, the Celtics will no longer have the worst loss of the Playoffs so far.

1:07 – Fellow Massachusetts native Pat Connaughton is fouled on a layup attempt, and it gets us another timeout with the score Golden State 102, Portland 73 with 2:55 left until I can go to bed.

1:15 – This one comes to an end with the score Golden State 110, Portland 81. The Blazers made just a third of their shots tonight, and that’s clearly reflected on the scoreboard.

Steph Curry shot just 6-18, but he led the Warriors with 19 points, 6 rebounds and 6 assists. Draymond Green ran the show, scoring just six points, but accumulating 12 rebounds and 10 assists along the way. Andre Iguodala came off the bench for 6 points, 10 rebounds and 6 assists, and last but not least, JaVale McGee had 15 points, 5 rebounds, and 4 blocks, while shooting a perfect 7-7 from the field.

Portland was led by 15 points and 8 rebounds from Maurice Harkless. Damian Lillard scored 12 on 5-17 shooting, and CJ McCollum managed just 11 on 4-17 shooting.

Clearly, the Warriors had no problem without Kevin Durant. The Blazers weren’t able to keep it close, and with Lillard and McCollum failing to produce, they had absolutely no chance.

Portland Trail Blazers v Golden State Warriors

That does it for tonight’s exciting NBA Playoff action. We saw the first 50 point triple-double in Playoff history, thanks to Russell Westbrook, but the thing people will remember most will be that 4-18 shooting performance in the fourth quarter. For three quarters, Westbrook did everything for OKC, up to and including getting his teammates involved. Then, he rested, and the Rockets pounced. Once he came back, the reckless, erratic Westbrook appeared. He tried to do too much, and ended up shooting his team out of the game. It’s how they got here in the first place, as Westbrook provided more heroics than not this year, but it’s also what might end their season with a first round exit.

Will tomorrow night’s action be able to match, or even top tonight’s antics? Well, LeBron’s playing, so it’s quite possible. That’s something to look forward to, but for now, it’s time to sleep.

Back at it tomorrow.

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Author: tomeagher

Watching too much basketball.

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