It was the last thing the Oklahoma City Thunder and their fans wanted to see: All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook, angry and hobbling, after colliding knees with Toronto Raptors guard Kyle Lowry during the third quarter Friday night at the Air Canada Centre.
But after the Thunder’s 119-118 double-overtime win, the news seemed upbeat.
“I’m pain-free,” Westbrook said after the game (h/t ESPN.com). “I’m just going to … get it looked at and go from there.”
The irony was that Westbrook sat out Thursday’s win at Cleveland to rest the knee, which has undergone three surgical procedures in less than a year since initially being injured during Game 2 of OKC’s first-round playoff victory over the Rockets last spring.
It didn’t look good at first. Lowry and Westbrook came together and Westbrook immediately turned and called a timeout, bending over in pain and slapping at the floor. He limped up the sideline and was looked at by the trainer before getting some help from Hasheem Thabeet to leave the court.
He’s averaging 21.2 points, seven assists and 5.7 rebounds per game in 37 games this season, playing a career-low 30.7 minutes per game. Westbrook has been on a minutes restriction since returning in February from a third surgical procedure performed after he re-injured the knee on Christmas Day.
The Thunder are 28-9 when Westbrook starts and 23-9 in the games he’s missed. But statistically there’s little questioning his effect on the team: OKC has an offensive rating of 113.5 points per 100 possessions when Westbrook is on the floor and 108.3 without him and while the Thunder have played worse defensively (105.8 points allowed per 100 possessions with Westbrook, 101.7 without), the Thunder are still more than a point better (a net of plus-1.1 points per 100 possessions) with their All-Star point guard on the floor.
More importantly, though, with the playoffs less than a month away and the Thunder still in the hunt for the top seed in the West, now is the time to be gaining momentum. That becomes harder to attain if another key piece has to be sidelined for awhile.
After a 3-1 week, Oklahoma City is 51-18, 1½ games in back of San Antonio in the West and in second place in the conference. The Thunder lead the third-place Clippers by three games and have a six-game lead over Portland in the Northwest Division.
Here is the week that was, including game reviews, some news and notes, injury updates, rookie watch, and player of the week selection, as well as a look ahead to next week’s action (all statistical information from NBA.com/Stats):