The Oklahoma City Thunder is battling for the eighth and final spot in the NBA Western Conference playoff race. With just two games to play in the regular season, the Thunder is tied with the New Orleans Pelicans in eighth place, but the Pelicans own the tiebreaker between the two teams thanks to winning the season series.
The Thunder has had its share of injuries including a season ending one to top scorer Kevin Durant.
However, Russell Westbrook helped to pick up the slack in Durant’s absence. On Sunday night, the Thunder guard scored 54 points, grabbed 9 rebounds and handed out 8 assists. Few NBA players can fill out such a box score like Westbrook can. Nevertheless, those numbers came in a loss on Sunday to Indiana 116-104.
Westbrook hit 21 of his 43 shots from the field. He was 5 for 15 from behind the 3-point line, while the rest of the Thunder players shot just 20 for 52.
However, one number that does not appear in the stat sheet that might have the biggest impact on the Thunder, is Westbrook was called for his 16th technical foul for this season, which earns him an automatic one game suspension for Monday’s game against the Portland Trail Blazers.
As good as Westbrook is, why would you jeopardize your team’s playoff hopes by being whistled for another technical when the season is on the line.
A loss to Portland could end the season for the Thunder. If the Thunder lose and the Pelicans win, the Pelicans will hold a one game lead over the Thunder, which would clinch a playoff berth since they hold the tiebreaker over the Thunder.
It is still unknown if Westbrook must serve the suspension right away or if it can be pushed back.
Should the Thunder have to play without Westbrook, then D.J. Augustin will receive the minutes that Westbrook normally sees.
However, the Thunder would have a huge headache on their hands without Westbrook in the lineup, as they are so reliant on him scoring 25 to 30 points in each game.
Prior to the start of the season, it seemed crazy to consider the Thunder missing the postseason, but the club is playing with fire these last two games and could be burnt.
If Westbrook’s suspension does in fact partially cost the Thunder a berth in the postseason, it would be par for the course this season. It seems that everything that could go wrong has for the ball club.