By Brian Martin
Russell Westbrook does not miss games.
He didn't miss a game during high school in Southern California.
He didn't miss a game during his two years at UCLA.
And he hasn't missed a game during his five-year NBA career with the Oklahoma City Thunder -- consisting of 394 consecutive regular season games and 45 playoff games.
Of course that impressive streak will end on Saturday, as news broke Friday that Westbrook is out indefinitely after suffering a torn meniscus in his right knee during Oklahoma City's Game 2 victory over the Houston Rockets on Wednesday.
The loss of Westbrook leaves coach Scott Brooks and the Thunder in a position they have yet to face -- playing a game without their young star point guard. The three-time All-Star averaged 23.2 points (6th in the league), 7.4 assists (7th), 5.2 rebounds and 1.8 steals (9th) this season.
Russell Westbrook Statistics - Per Game
Russell Westbrook Statistics - Advanced
The Thunder are saying all of the right things about banding together as a team and having a "next man up" mentality to fill the void left by the dynamic guard.
"It doesn't matter who we throw out there. We're a 15-man team and we still are, even with Russell being hurt," said Brooks. "We're a 15-man team and everybody believes in each other and that's what you have to do."
"We all gotta step up. We all gotta play a bigger part because he's a huge part of our team," said Kevin Durant. "So I know I have to be a better leader on the floor, maybe doing some of the stuff that he was doing for us. It's going to be a tough task but we're all looking forward to it."
|Durant, Ibaka, Perkins, Sefolosha, Westbrook||76||1307||109.3||97.0||+12.3||52.7%||95.45|
|Durant, Ibaka, Martin, Perkins, Westbrook||70||358||110.2||101.2||+9.0||53.0%||96.82|
|Collison, Durant, Ibaka, Martin, Westbrook||56||187||114.5||109.2||+5.3||52.2%||96.36|
|Durant, Ibaka, Martin, Sefolosha, Westbrook||31||135||116.3||105.8||+10.5||53.3%||96.56|
|Collison, Durant, Fisher, Jackson, Martin||19||109||117.4||100.6||+16.7||57.1%||94.21|
Now they need to find a way to get it done.
Thanks to Westbrook's incredible durability, the Thunder have just one five-man lineup that does not include Westbrook and played at least 100 minutes this season. It consists of Nick Collison, Kevin Durant, Derek Fisher, Reggie Jackson and Kevin Martin. That's an all-bench lineup with the exception of Durant.
You have to dig deep to see a lineup that includes back-up point guard Jackson with the rest of the Thunder's regular starting five -- Durant, Serge Ibaka, Kendrick Perkins and Thabo Sefolosha. The group has played a total of 19 minutes together over six games this season. That's certainly about to change as Jackson moves into Westbrook's spot.
|Durant, Ibaka, Perkins, Sefolosha, Westbrook||6||19||123.9||82.1||+41.7||62.1%||90.51|
|Durant, Ibaka, Jackson, Perkins, Sefolosha||76||1307||109.3||97.0||+12.3||52.7%||95.45|
During the regular season, the Thunder (110.2) and Miami Heat (110.3) were nearly identical in terms of offensive efficiency (points per 100 possessions) and the Thunder led the NBA in Net Rating (point differential per 100 possessions) at +11.0, with Miami second at +9.9. Of course, that was with a healthy Westbrook suiting up every night and averaging 35 minutes a game.
On-Court / Off-Court Summary
While Jackson has been solid off the bench for the Thunder this season (with a on-court net rating of +7.4), it is unknown how he will react to becoming the starter and the primary facilitator for Oklahoma City. In addition to averaging 24 points in the first two games of the series, Westbrook had dished out seven assists per game as well.
"We have good depth on our team," said Durant. "Reggie Jackson is ready for the moment. He has been working his tail off ever since he got here. So he's ready for this."
The other unknown is how the Rockets will react and how they will adjust their defensive schemes with Westbrook out of the lineup. Now rather than having to defend two of the top six scorers in the league, they only have to face one.
While Westbrook is definitely out for the remainder of the first round series with Houston, there is hope that he could possibly return later in the playoffs if the Thunder can continue to advance without him. There is no timetable set for his return, and won't be until after the surgery is completed.
"We're not trying to rush him or bring him back ahead of schedule. We want to make sure he's healthy and his knee is right," said Durant. "That's our only concern with it right now."