Wednesday, May 25th, 2011

Sit Down, Westbrook

If it were anyone other than the Dallas Mavericks—a team whose past playoff flameouts are legendary—the Western Conference championship series would be over today.

The word “devastating” is the only apt one for Monday night’s developments: Oklahoma City, at home, blew a 15-point lead with 5 minutes left and now find themselves down three games to one, teetering on the brink of losing, again, in the Western Conference Finals. They were poised to knot the series at 2-2, on the verge of overcoming what appears to be a postseason-long hierarchical rift between maybe the best player in the game, Kevin Durant, and the NBA’s fourth-best point guard, Russell Westbrook. It is almost comical watching Durant stand idly by while Westbrook fritters away the 24 second clock before vainly trying to thread the needle to Nick Collison, who is a smart player and a rugged defender, but who couldn’t finish a sentence, much less a lay-up, with Tyson Chandler on his back. James Harden has been saving the team on many nights, but now even he seems frozen out of the offense.

Okie State head coach Scott Brooks attempted to wrest the team back from Westbrook by benching him during the fourth quarter of a Game 3 victory. It was a move so courageous his nickname should be Braveheart. And, it should be noted, it resulted in a victory. Hint hint.

But Dirk Nowitzki, man. He has been so tough. And Jason Terry has hit about 300 treys from the corner. (I refuse to acknowledge J.J. Runt’s existence. His play irritates me.) They were aided, however, by Westbrook, who was back to his old tricks in Game 4: lazily defending switches, practicing his highlight-reel driving forays (unsuccessfully, I might add) and generally keeping his own offense so off-balance, it’s hard to see them threading the needle now, and winning three straight games. Especially since two are in Dallas, a team whose crowd actually seems to out-white Okie State crew of white-haired seniors. And yet … two of the games are in Dallas and that team knows from epic collapses. Whether they have one left in them is the question.

Rarely does Reggie Miller make as much sense as he did in the closing minutes of last night’s game: the Chicago Bulls were gassed. Their starters had played too many minutes and, heading into overtime they looked like Oscar de la Hoya in the 6th round versus Manny Pacquiao. Like, “Really? Another one?”

Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau admitted as much during a timeout when he exhorted them to “push through” their exhaustion. They couldn’t and didn’t. The team’s performance was miserable during the extra period—MVP Derrick Rose played as if he had a fork protruding from his head—and the players’ complete lack of energy gave LeBron James an opportunity to practice his funny faces and dance moves for when, if he has such an occasion in two weeks, he actually wins something significant, other than a high-school championship. His behavior, even while the game was still going on, was tasteless and crass and… the crowd loved it, at least when they managed to look up from their iPhones. Former NBA Finals MVP Kobe Bryant looks like a pillar of probity in comparison. (Let me know if I need to repeat that statement for emphasis.)

The Bulls looked so beaten after the final buzzer that, like the Thunder, it seems difficult to envision them winning three straight games. While two of those contests are at home, they are facing a team that won last night with Dwyane Wade hardly contributing. Unfortunately for Chicago, Wade, unlike LeBron, has actually won an NBA championship. And you get the feeling that he will shoulder the load in Game Six, leaving LeBron more time to scowl and taunt the crowd.

God help the Bulls.

Tony Gervino is a New York City-based editor and writer obsessed with honing his bio to make him sound quirky. He can also be found here.

Photo by Keith Allison.

18 Comments / Post A Comment

zoom (#10,138)

Shut your mouth Gervino. The Mavs have fire in their bellies for at least 24 minutes a game.

soco (#8,225)

The funny thing about last night's game, and really the past three 4th quarters of the Bulls/Heat matchup, is that the Bulls supposedly superior bench didn't matter one bit. Where are the "convincing" Bulls wins?

whizz_dumb (#10,650)

@soco as a bulls fan, good question. The choking is saddening me. Comes down to Rose's misses, turnovers, and Thibs not playing the right supporting cast.

keisertroll (#1,117)

Reggie Miller is not in the Hall of Fame because he makes more sense than Dennis Rodman. And has like eighteen fewer rings.

zoom (#10,138)

@keisertroll Reggie's not in the hall because he's more vanilla than John Stockton in a snowstorm.

MParcells (#375)

I love all of the Heat hate on here today. Most days I have to go elsewhere to fulfill those needs.

BoHan (#29)

Courtside Dallas games may look white. But what I like most about Cuban, and there's a lot to like, is that he is constantly pushing out last minute inexpensive seats for the typical Dallas family (i.e., not white), via Twitter, Facebook and what have you. It's rare you can't get into a weeknight game for $20. Heck, a couple of times it's been free.

keisertroll (#1,117)

@BoHan I remember in the late 80's when they'd actually let you suit up.

zoom (#10,138)

@keisertroll and now Ro Blackmon shills discount suits.

DrWorm (#10,282)

I'm so sick of hearing about the Heat being anything but lucky last night. Rose had a freethrow for the lead with less than a mintue left and he chokes. Lebron proceeds to hand possesion back like the tool he is with 8 sec, still tied… And they give it to Rose. And he takes the jump shot.

Rose, you ruined everything. We all thought it would be Boozer, Noah, or even Korver. But it was you, you god damned Brutus. I hope he goes home after this series and his wife leaves him. I hope he finds himself impotent. I hope his family won't take his calls. I hope his condo forcloses. I hope every check he writes bounces. I hope he has no where to go but the gym, where he can learn to properly close a f-ing game. Not double-choke after losing a 10 pt lead. I hope he drags the rest of those starters down with him. I hope they are haunted by the ghosts of competent solid players who look when they pass and dont choke. Except Deng.

Deng is good. Deng is consistant. He is Dengerous. Deng gets a break from all that and gets an ice cream sunday. And an apology from his teammates,

BirdNerd (#4,196)

@DrWorm I give Bogans a pass too. Teammates don't use him nearly enough (or Tibs, for that matter).

DrWorm (#10,282)

@BirdNerd Every second that Korver was in was a second that Bogans could have been doing something awesome. Possibly amazing. We'll never know…

BirdNerd (#4,196)


I approve, btw.

keisertroll (#1,117)

So, Erik Spoelstra: This generation's Butch van Breda Kolff, or this generation's Bill Sharman?

shasler (#13,030)

Hey Gervino, Check out Durant's turnover totals for game 4. Then go ahead and look at Westbrook's. I understand that it is en vogue right now to point fingers at someone (I prefer to point it at last year's coach of the year, Scotty Brooks) but Westbrook is off the hook for game 4's implosion. Maybe Harden deserves some ire for picking up his 6th foul 80 feet from the hoop on a silly reach. Lay off Westbrook. You call him #4– Rose, CP3, who is #3? Rondo?

Tray Tray@twitter (#12,577)

I'm surprised that the Awl would bring such a moralizing/dumb approach to NBA commentary. LeBron is tasteless and crass, Westbrook is selfish (moralizing), Durant is maybe the best player in the game (dumb), Durant isn't really the one to blame for his struggles in the playoffs, it's his point guard (dumb), etc. I mean, at this point, "it's not Westbrook's fault, it's Durant's because he doesn't get any separation from his defenders or move without the ball, stupid" is as big a cliche in the NBA blogosphere as Netanyahu's telling us over and over and over that Israel used to be half the width of the Beltway. We got over this blame Westbrook silliness two weeks ago.

zoom (#10,138)

@Tray Tray@twitter can we at least agree that Westbrook is a world class putz?

whizz_dumb (#10,650)

@zoom looking at the picture atop this page, i don't know if putz goes far enough.

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