In the four weeks since Russell Westbrook's arthroscopic surgery, the Oklahoma City Thunder has fallen from 23-5 (.821) to 33-10 (.767) — that is, the team has racked up half its losses during just 15 games. Westbrook's major stats this season (21.4 points, 6.0 boards, 7.0 assists, 1.8 steals) all topped his career averages. Say what you will about Westbrook — and people love to bitch about Russell Westbrook — but losing him leaves yawning holes in the box score to fill.
The Thunder are losing more than they're used to, but not because Kevin Durant hasn't taken up the challenge:
Since Westbrook went down, Kevin Durant is averaging OH MY GOD WHAT IS HE DOING TO THE BODIES OF THE VICTIMS?! points per game.
— Zach Harper (@talkhoops) January 18, 2014
And that particular bean-counting preceded his 30 points against Sacramento, 46 against Portland and, tonight, 36 against San Antonio. He's at 38.1 points a game in his past 10 games. The Thunder has won five straight, best in the West, and took over first in the conference by a half-game by eking past the Spurs 111-105 on the road. Durant's 11 turnovers are more than triple his season average. No matter. The Thunder scored 35 in the fourth quarter and got Westbrookian numbers (27 points, 8 assists) from point guard Reggie Jackson, roughly double his season averages. This assemblage plus Westbrook starts looking less like mere contender and more like a full-on favorite.
Everyone who notices fat, smooth numbers would've preferred Durant round out the night by cracking 40. But we're getting spoiled. Tonight in Toronto, the Raptors beat the Mavs behind a 40-spot by DeMar DeRozan, his career high. It was the first 40-point game for Toronto since Andrea Bargnani poured in 41 (on just 24 shots) against the Knicks in late 2010. Durant has topped 40 four times in the past three weeks. The exceptional has become pedestrian. It's all Durant, all the time. The bodies of the victims are the least of the league's problems.
Photo credit: AP