Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are having tremendous individual seasons and tonight, they’ll be teammates again.
Tonight, they’ll be teammates for the first time since Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals. It was the last of three straight losses that resulted in the Thunder becoming the 10th team in NBA history to blow a 3-1 lead in the playoffs (The Warriors then became the 11th team to do so in the ensuing series).
Obviously, this is the tasty event everyone has been salivating over since it was announced Russ and KD would be All Stars. Durant’s first trip back to OKC lived up to the hype and hopefully this game does the same. It certainly should. Who knows, they might shock the world and rekindle their relationship.
The meme phenomenon has incited social media participants to “find someone that looks at you the way, X looks at Y.” You know, like how Jay-Z looks at Beyonce.
For a while, it would’ve been hard to find that person that looked at you the way KD and Russ looked at each other.
Katie really a snake man pic.twitter.com/lioaZrBLj4
— Lebron Jaymes Cole (@LeBlew3v1Lead) February 9, 2017
But that relationship has since been fractured and the NBA world is waiting to see what happens next.
You can hate the fact that Durant single-handily deflated everyone not named Golden State’s chances of winning the NBA title this year. But criticizing his decision to spurn Russell Westbrook for the team that helped cause their break up shouldn’t obscure the reality that he’s still one of the best players in the league. This isn’t the classic “prisoner of the moment” analysis with Durant exorcising those emotional demons with 34/9/3 performance on 12-of-21 shooting against his former club in OKC. He then followed that up scoring a combine 46 points in the next two games, including an impressive 21/7/7/4 performance in a win over the Kings.
This is about giving credit where its due for a one-time MVP making a run at another one of those awards averaging 25.8 points, 8.3 rebounds, 4.9 assists and nearly two blocks per game.
Shocker, the Warriors are the prohibitive favorites to win the title this year. And while many loathe acknowledging Durant’s value because this is a team that won 73 games and came within a whisker of repeating as champs, his sensational play is why they will indeed win again.
Golden State leads the NBA in net-rating (12.44) by a wide margin. We know KD can score, but his impact on defense has been astronomical. His defensive box plus minus of 2.6 and blocks average of 1.7 would be the highest marks of his career. You can hate the player, but you have to put respect on the game.
There’s also a ton of room to dole out adulation for Westbrook, who’s also in the MVP conversation. He’s on pace to become just the second player in NBA history to average a triple-double for the season. Right now, he’s at 31/10/10.
In a three-point shooting league, the Thunder are the second-worst team from downtown. The deficiencies don’t cease there though. Their bench ranks 20th in net-rating.
Westbrook has put this team on his back. OKC is 21-6 when he records a triple-double, compared to just 11-19 when he doesn’t. That spells out the acronym M-V-P. This team is literally Russell Westbrook or bust. Somehow he has them just four games back of hosting a playoff series in the first round.
How amazing would it be if they both dominated tonight and shared the MVP award? That would truly be fitting. After all, it’s not like they’re strangers to both having dominant games in a winning effort.
Maybe this game will come down to a final possession. Tie game, West ball with 10 seconds left. Steve Kerr draws up a play for Durant to set a screen for Westbrook, the ball-handler. The play is designed to get KD the shot after he pops. Things would get interesting there.
Either way, it should be fun. Both Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant are having incredible seasons. They are two of the Top-5 MVP candidates. And tonight, they’ll be teammates again just like old times.