Wednesday 16th January 2019,

Is Russell Westbrook Wrecking Thunder’s Playoff Chances?

westyscoringhRussell Westbrook giveth, and he taketh away.

In the Oklahoma City Thunder’s 116-104 loss to the Indiana Pacers on Sunday, he tooketh away. He didn’t cost the Thunder a victory per se. He tallied a career-high 54 points to go along with nine rebounds and eight assists—another superhuman stat line for a desperately energetic player trying to carry his injury-infested team to a postseason berth.

But in trying to nab the Thunder a playoff spot, he may have cost them one.

Inside six minutes to play, Westbrook was whistled for a foul after running into a Luis Scola screen. He argued the call to detrimental consequence, earning his 16th technical foul of the season and, thus, an automatic one-game suspension.

Here’s video of the incident:

Immediately after Ed Malloy hit Westbrook with the technical, the point guard knew. You can see it in his eyes and all over the rest of his face. He enters a state of disbelief and, if you believe his hand motions, regret.

Unless the foul is rescinded, Westbrook will miss the Thunder’s date with the Portland Trail Blazers on Monday night, a game that could determine their playoff fate. They’re in a virtual tie with the New Orleans Pelicans for eighth place, but they don’t own the tiebreaker, increasing the importance of every game and potential victory.

For what it’s worth, Durant thinks Westbrook’s tech is, um, worthy of being rescinded:

The call is admittedly a weird. As numerous people on Twitter pointed out, there was no warning from Malloy, which is tradition in these situations. Malloy, for his part, was also a little whistle-happy here. The foul itself was a questionable call; handing him a technical, knowing the Thunder’s season is on the line, falls into the same category.

But that doesn’t excuse Westbrook’s 15 other technicals. Nor does it belie the fact that a more aware player would have kept his emotions in check, regardless of circumstance, knowing the possible end result.

Referees don’t just reverse calls because players disagree. There is literally no incentive to arguing. Maybe it makes the officials more aware of your case the next time around, but in this situation, who gives a flying damn? Westbrook needs to be on the floor for the Thunder to have a puncher’s chance at sneaking into the playoffs. And, as of now, he won’t be on the floor for their most crucial game of the season yet.

Whether he actually serves the suspension isn’t really the point here. The Thunder are 5-10 when both him and Durant sit out, so they would prefer to have him. But they would also prefer to not worry about the possibility of him receiving another technical at a time when they can ill afford to lose him.

That’s the upshot with Westbrook. You love him when he’s tallying triple-doubles with unparalleled frequency. You question him once you realize the Thunder haven’t been very good overall while he’s notching those triple-doubles. And you loathe him when he shoots himself and his team in the foot with games, with decisions, with incidents, however seemingly unfair, like this.


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