By Charles Glover, Jr.
With a dozen games remaining in the Thunder’s season they have a three game lead for the eighth seed in the Western Conference and trail by five games in their division. This writer is predicting that the Thunder will continue their winning ways and eventually win their division, propelling them to a top four seed in their conference.
Winning the division would have been viewed as implausible as little as a few days ago when news circulated that reigning NBA MVP Kevin Durant will not be returning to action anytime soon. Durant’s setback, coupled with the news of Serge Ibaka’s recent knee surgery, means that the Thunder will be without two of their best three players for the remainder of the regular season. The Thunder have responded by winning their last three games since learning of Durant’s setback while showing continued resiliency following Westbrook’s lead. However, it will take a grandiose effort on the part of the team to ultimately win their division.
The Thunder’s injury woes have been headline news but the Northwest division leading Portland Trailblazers have their own injury concerns that threaten to derail their season. Both LaMarcus Aldridge and Nicolas Batum left their last game together with different injuries and are questionable for their next game. Guard Wesley Matthews suffered a ruptured Achilles a few weeks ago and is out for the season. With three fifths of their starting lineup potentially absent or compromised, the Trailblazers have a tough stretch remaining on their schedule while trying to hold off the surging Thunder.
The Thunder have given themselves a chance for a late season push by making moves to add quality depth to a team that has usually been described as being led by two superstars. The Thunder have been able to deal with the absence of forwards Durant and Ibaka with the emergence of other talented big men like Enes Kanter, Steven Adams, rookie Mitch McGarry, and veteran Nick Collison. Guards Dion Waiters, D.J. Augustin, and Anthony Morrow have also taken advantage of more playing time in wake of the numerous injuries the team has endured. The team seems poised to finish the season on a high note.
While the Thunder’s front office and coaches deserve credit for putting together and developing a roster that can endure the changes they have so far, the bulk of the praise still rests with Russell Westbrook. Westbrook almost notched his tenth triple-double on Sunday and continues to lead the league in scoring. He is also second in steals and fourth in assists. Night in and night out, Westbrook plays with a fiery passion reminiscent of Allen Iverson. It is a long shot, but winning a division with the challenges this team has faced would create a narrative likely to propel Westbrook to the top of the NBA MVP race. It would be well deserved.–OnPointPress.net– Charles Glover, Jr. is a sports aficionado and a training/benefits consultant. Follow me @GloverIsGood on Twitter.com. For business inquiries contact (646)309-1938.