this is a discussion within the Pelicans Community Forum; Russell Westbrook 's jaw-dropping exploits have sustained the Oklahoma City Thunder 's playoff push for more than a month now, but even the most prolific individual efforts may not be enough to prevent Anthony Davis and the New Orleans Pelicans ...
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|04-05-2015, 08:30 PM||#1|
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OKC Thunder Opening Door for NBA Fans to Get Anthony Davis into 2015 Playoffs
Russell Westbrook's jaw-dropping exploits have sustained the Oklahoma City Thunder's playoff push for more than a month now, but even the most prolific individual efforts may not be enough to prevent Anthony Davis and the New Orleans Pelicans from crashing the postseason party.
In Sunday afternoon's 115-112 loss to the Houston Rockets, Westbrook compiled his league-leading 11th triple-double, totaling 40 points (12-of-29 shooting), 13 assists and 11 rebounds. It was Westbrook's ninth triple-double since the All-Star break, marking the second time in four decades a player has posted that many in such a narrow window, according to ESPN:
With a third straight loss, Oklahoma City (42-35) occupies the Western Conference's eighth and final playoff spot by a measly half-game over the Pelicans (41-35), who hold the tiebreaker after taking the season series, 3-1.
Oklahoma City is now 7-4 when Westbrook records a triple-double and 1-2 when he triple-doubles while scoring at least 40 points. Balance continues to elude the Thunder, and the effects of asymmetry have been detrimental to the team's playoff hopes.
His put-the-team-on-my-back mentality has been admirable to watch in action, but at this point, a depleted Thunder team doesn't possess the means to enhance those offerings. Rather, Oklahoma City's ceiling has become increasingly capped with each passing loss, indicators of a season that couldn't be salvaged by even the most heroic attempts.
But if Westbrook's squad can't save its injury-riddled season, perhaps Davis can do so for the Pelicans as he seeks to enter the postseason spotlight during an outrageous third season in the pros.
And in the grand scheme of things, that outcome might not just be best for Davis and the Pelicans—it may also be what's best for the fans.
Pragmatically, it's safe to assume the Golden State Warriors will defeat their first-round opponent handily regardless of the matchup. Neither team has the defensive wherewithal to hunker down and seriously challenge the Warriors, so if a romp is in order, it's better to catch a glimpse of the new kid on the block rather than experience the deja vu of Westbrook's repeated statistical romps to no avail.
Whether it's been due to market size, a consistent occupation of the ninth seed or a lack of narrative intrigue, Davis' ability to keep the Pelicans afloat has been of the same accord as Westbrook's.
Davis is on pace to become the eighth player in league history to finish a season with a player efficiency rating over 30, and his talent demands to be showcased consistently on a national stage. He's also on track to join Shaquille O'Neal as the only players this millennium to average at least 24 points and 10 rebounds while shooting better than 53 percent from the field.
And as The New York Times' Benjamin Hoffman wrote, players of Davis' caliber rarely have to wait this long to bask in the glow of the postseason.
"Even if you go far beyond Davis, it is hard to find top players who endured similar struggles in reaching the playoffs," Hoffman wrote. "Of the top 25 players in PER over their first three seasons, just four other than Davis had to wait beyond their second season. Chris Paul and [LeBron] James qualified in their third seasons, Walt Bellamy and John Drew in their fourth."
A 6'10" power forward with evolving mid-range shooting capabilities, a handle that would be the envy of most artificially intelligent beings and a slew of lethal post moves, it's a wonder how Davis still feels like a guarded secret in some regards.
"Norris Cole said I'm on another planet," Davis said, according to NBA.com's Shaun Powell. "I'm just out there having fun, and I'm no where near where I want to be. My thing is, I don't take plays off, and I do my best to help the team. When you put the team first, good things usually happen."
So in his own words, Davis is still years away from reaching his potential despite posting historically significant numbers at the ripe age of 22.
Westbrook and the Thunder offer brand-name recognition that would set the stage for an epic first-round duel at point guard and not much else. Golden State will have no mercy on any of its postseason foes to be sure, but Davis isn't one to shy away from even the most well-oiled, efficient machine around. In his lone appearance against the Warriors this season, Davis finished with 30 points on 14-of-19 shooting, 15 rebounds, three blocks and two steals in a 112-85 loss on Dec. 4.
Even if the eventual eighth seed is faced with an inevitable first-round exit, the opportunity to watch Davis' legend grow on the game's biggest stage is too enticing to ignore.
And who knows? Maybe he'll sprinkle in a triple-double or two for good measure.
We'll call it his Westbrook salute.
All statistics are current as of April 5 and courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com and NBA.com unless noted otherwise.
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