Russell Westbrook wears a Thunder uniform, but in the fourth quarter of Saturday's game, Westbrook single handily shot his opponents, the Memphis Grizzles, back into a game that late in the third period was a Thunder game to lose with a 15 point lead. With an 11 point lead at about the 7:43 mark of the 4th, Westbrook went 8 of 10 possessions failing to set the Thunder in an offensive set and established isolation for himself missing shot after shot, along with turnovers, even waving off the best fourth quarter scorer this season, Kevin Durant, twice. Not to mention the league's best scorer who shoots 60% in the final period. The result was a total melt down, and a 23-10 final period that sent the game to overtime, where the home team took the momentum into the extra period, scoring 15 points and holding OKC to 7 points for the 101-93 win and a 2-1 lead in the series. Westbrook gets the slight nod over a strong finish by Zach Randolph (21 pts.) and Mike Conley (18 pts.), Jr., as the key player in this Memphis comeback victory.
In other games this weekend we have watched a very disoriented defending champion, Lakers squad, fall to 0-3 against a surprisingly more physical Dallas Maverick team that has been criticized for its' lack of physicality versus their strong and streaky shooting skills. In game three the Lakers appeared on their way to recovery from a home court collapse leading by 7 points with 5 minutes remaining when the team just stopped playing defense again late in the game and allowed the Mavericks to find open players possession after possession, while missing their shots. The result, a 20-7 run to close the game for a 98-92 loss to Dallas, who now lead the series 3-0. Perimeter defense, along with poor rotation and decisions defending the "pick and roll" are a part of the problem. But when Pau Gasol defends Dirk Nowitzki, Dirk is 16-19 in the series, all others defending Nowitzki have held him to 16-38 accuracy. Kobe Bryant has taken the blame for the late game collapse, but LA has to see championship support performances from others such as Steve Blake, Shannon Brown, Matt Barnes, and obviously the melting Gasol. Without it, a Phil Jackson coached team will be swept for the first time in his NBA coaching career.
In Boston, D. Wade found the going just as tough as in many previous trips for the all-star guard, who hasn't won in Boston since the development of flat screen television technology. Boston appeared to gain needed rest with the extra day scheduling and shot 50% from the floor, and road the 28 point, 18 rebound performance of Kevin Garnett, who shot13-20 (65%), while dominating the glass and leading the Celtics to a 97-81. During the middle of the third quarter, Rajon Rondo went down with a severely dislocated left elbow and was taken to the locker room for diagnostics, and eventual treatment, only to return to the bench at the end of the quarter and back into the game to start the fourth. While dragging the arm around like a heavy piece of luggage, Rondo would score 4 points while grabbing a rebound, posting a couple of assists and even had a steal using the wounded arm. By the way there was also a deflection that generated another Miami turnover. On this night it was the original "Big Three" scoring 70, with the new south beach "Big Three" accounting for 45 points. Literally ruining a very good performance from Mario Chalmers (17 pts.) off the Miami bench. The Heat-Celtics matchup is now a series again. Look for the series to be tied after Monday going back to Miami to begin the best of three to see who advances (Miami leads 2-1). Experience and chemistry versus speed and athleticism, which will prevail?
Down in Atlanta the Bulls-Hawks series came into the weekend tied 1-1, with the home court advantage shifted to the host club for game three. But the game became a highlight reel for the league's MVP, Derrick Rose, as he poured in a career high, 44 points on 16-27 shooting (4-7 long range), while dishing out 7 assists, as the Bulls won relatively easy 99-82 (Chicago leads 2-1). Atlanta has failed to get significant scoring in the paint in previous losses, but in this game they generated 44 points in the paint, but had no answer for Rose defensively. But this series may come down to sheer scoring, and if it does, the Hawks average 86 points for the season and the Bulls 94. You do the math.