Russell Westbrook Injury: Western Conference Impact
Digest that for just a quick second. That means Reggie Jackson and Derek Fisher will need to take hold of the point guard duties for the Thunder. Wait a tick, this sounds like a similar situation in Los Angeles where the Lakers have no guards to play either. Well the Thunder still have Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka to fall back on, but this will be an intense blow to their title chances.
What it actually means for the other 'contenders' in the West is that the road to the NBA Finals is not as daunting as it once was. The winner of the 4/5 series between the LA Clippers and Memphis Grizzlies will face the 1/8 matchup between Houston and Oklahoma City. OKC now leads 2-0, but with the series shifting to Houston and Russ sidelined, does Houston have a shot at the upset? Probably not, but its worth discussing.
James Harden plays astronomically better in front of his home crowd and Durant will now have to depend upon a far more consistent Kevin Martin throughout the remainder of the series. Assuming the Thunder still have enough in the tank to withstand a 4-wins-in-5-games-comeback by the Rockets, the Thunder will have a tough matchup next round without their star point guard.
The San Antonio Spurs play the winner of Denver/Golden State, which also features some big injuries to David Lee, Danilo Galinari and some nagging maladies to Kenneth Faried and Tony Parker. San Antonio, Los Angeles (Clippers, not Lakers), OKC, & Denver have an equal shot at grabbing the Western Conference title.
The immediate impact shifts the power in the West over to San Antonio and the Clippers - the two other teams who have the most realistic shot at winning the West without a healthy Westbrook in OKC. Memphis is still in the conversation, but until they have an advantage or a level series, the Clippers have the early edge. This injury not only hurts those who love watching Westbrook play, it hurts his team's ability to adjust, especially as they traded away his capable backup in Eric Maynor mid-season.
Clippers, Spurs or Grizzlies? Who you got now?!