After game 4 of the Western Conference Finals there has been a lot of talk about how Russell Westbrook is destroying Stephen Curry. Even with the game 2 no-show there is no doubt that Russ has been the best player in this series and perhaps the playoffs as a whole. He takes ‘bad’ shots, plays out of control on occasion and is one of the worst help defenders starting in the playoffs but more than makes up for it with his aggression and physical superiority, best exemplified when he goes on one of his violent one man fast breaks finished with an explosion to the basket. He seems to have found the right balance of when to go hard to the rim, go to one of the best mid range pull up jumpers in basketball or most impressively drive into the paint and find a willing cutter in Roberson or the incredibly safe hands of ‘playoff Steven Adams’. He does still take too many threes (even when he goes 4/8 like in game 4) but you can live with that when he is capable of putting up a triple double in any game.
Curry is struggling on offense, is he injured? Is he exerting too much energy guarding Westbrook? Or are shots just not falling for the MVP? The Thunder are switching every pick and roll and hiding Kanter on the bench when Curry is on the court. An on form Curry would be creating space for a patented ‘Steph-back’ three or getting into the paint with ease when switched onto the likes of an Adams or Ibaka. The Curry in games 3 and 4 isn’t creating space, having two 3 point attempts blocked and is unable to get into the paint. There is no doubt Westbrook is playing better but what about this notion that he is destroying Curry? The popular narrative is that one of the many chips on Westbrook’s shoulders is that he believes he is better than the two time MVP and that he is out to do what he can to prove it. I don’t really subscribe to this theory, Westbrook is Westbrook, he hates everyone, he seemed to hate me when i met him in 2012 and that’s why I like him, he is genuinely his own person. A person who goes out to play as hard as he can in every game whether it is Stephen Curry, Chris Paul or Austin Rivers up against him. From watching the games I had always got the impression that Steph is doing an excellent job of defending Russ but again this is not the popular narrative. To me Westbrook’s points and best plays were coming in transition or when being guarded by someone other than Curry. After a few of these arguments I went on a YouTube mission to rewatch key plays to see if my assumption was well founded and i came across a video by the excellent BBallBreakdown (A great twitter follow!). They have compiled a video of every one of Westbrook’s Shot attempts when guarded by Curry.
So what do you think, Westbrook is a beast, best player in this series so far, but IS he destroying Curry? Let us know!