Oh Russell, how I pine for thee. You’re gonna get some shit for that foul on Chalmers, but hopefully people are like Jared Dubin, writing for Hardwood Paroxysm, where after reiterating that Westbrook did make a bone-headed foul on Chalmers, writes that he was the real reason the Thunder were even in the game at that point:
Russ was nothing short of amazing last night in a game where OKC needed every single one of his 32 shots and 20 field goals made. Russ made 20 field goals. The rest of the Thunder made 20 field goals. He was the 7th player in NBA history to have 20 field goals in an NBA Finals game (and the first to do so in a loss). James Harden was nowhere to be found, Kevin Durant struggled to get open and to get his shot off when he did, and Russ just barreled his way through the lane time and time again and scored again and again and again. He finished at the rim and he knocked down his shots from mid range. He scored in transition and he scored in the half court. He scored on Chalmers, he scored on Dwyane Wade (a lot) and he scored on LeBron. He couldn’t be stopped.
Couldn’t have written it better myself; although, it should be noted that I’ve had a crush on Westbrook almost because of the media’s infatuation with downplaying what he does for this Thunder team. The more people talk shit about Westbrook the more I love him. So keep it up Skip!
Everyone was calling Westbrook out before game 4, and this is how he responded. That’s a guy you want on your team; that’s a guy you can win a championship with.
That being said, Russell’s brilliance in game 4 wasn’t the only picture painted by Internet writers, but the inevitable backlash I expected after Russell’s foul on Chalmers—effectively ending any real chance they had to come back and steal the game—didn’t really come. The hate-read only Gregg Doyel actually stuck up for Westbrook and lumped himself into the (sometimes recapitulating) writers that have called his topsy-turvy game a prerequisite for failure at this level.
Ethan Sherwood Strauss does go into the specifics of the foul, which was all the more astounding because no one could figure out why he did it. Assigning blame is one thing, but most—including myself—just didn’t understand what he could have possibly been thinking. He claimed it was “a lack of communication,” but it still doesn’t make any sense, which is why it’s OK to criticize him for the foul without forgetting that he’s the only reason the Thunder were in the game in the first place.
This conversation may be less about blame and more about “why?” While I can empathize with having to suffer criticism after a well-intentioned mistake, I can’t relate to making Westbrook’s specific mistake because it’s a bizzarre decision in search of a reason. Since the rationale for this foul hasn’t been spelled out yet, I just have to fill in the “why” with “miscommunication” as though the latter were the Jurrassic Park frog DNA that animates an explanation into existence. It doesn’t work. I’d crumble under basketball pressure a million times over, but I still can’t effectively excuse or feel for Westbrook’s plight without knowing why the hell he did it, beyond the skeletal structure. It feels incomplete to defend actions you can’t understand, even if you’re incredibly certain you’d defend most any reason.
And I would defend most anything Westbrook does. Westbrook, for his part, answered the critics when Doyel asked him about it at the post-game podium:
”’Get this straight,’ Westbrook said. ‘What you guys say doesn’t make me happy, make me sad, doesn’t do anything. It’s all about my team and us winning a game. I don’t have a personal challenge against you [media] guys, and it’s not me against the world. It’s not the world against me. It’s me and my teammates trying to win.’”
How can you not love that guy? How? He’s a defiant motherfucker that does not give a shit what anyone else writes or thinks about him. I actually believe that because why should he? He just wants to win. He wants to win and if he makes some mistakes along the way—it’s not from lack of effort or lack of heart. He just wants to win so badly. That’s it.
Win or lose in these NBA Finals, you gotta love Russell Westbrook. My love for his game has just blossomed over these last few weeks. He keeps coming. He’ll be there in game 5; that much you can be sure about.