NBA Sitrep – Nightmare for Timberwolves, Warriors strike back against Thunder and is Kawhi’s season over?

A weekly post wrapping up all the action from around the association over the last seven days.

Down, but not out.

As Jimmy Butler lay writhing in pain with his hands clasped around his knee, the Timberwolves season hung delicately in the balance.

With the possibility of a season-ending ACL injury looming, the diagnosis of a torn right meniscus was surprisingly good news.

Butler will undergo surgery and is expected to be available to return in the next four to six weeks, which sees him in a race against time to suit up for the Timberwolves first playoff appearance in 13 seasons.

Butler has been the stoic captain for the Timberwolves all season, guiding the budding stars in Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins along Minnesota’s return to relevance.

Butler is averaging 22.2 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists and 1.9 steals per game, but his impact on the Timberwolves is far greater than his impressive stat line.

The Timberwolves currently sit fourth in the West with a 37-26 record, only one game behind the Spurs on the losses ledger.

Mystery surrounds Spurs and Kawhi.

What is going on with Kawhi Leonard?

We have seen the Spurs superstar for all of nine games this season, with a strained quad tendon hampering him for the entire campaign.

After attempting to make a brief return through December and January, Kawhi was shut down indefinitely by the Spurs and last week Popovich conceded the worst.

https://twitter.com/SportsQuotient/status/966453002373599233

There have been un-Spurs-like rumours about tension between Kawhi and the organisation, possibly misdiagnosis about the injury and the underlying truth that Leonard has actually been medically cleared to play.

Whatever the case, it seems unlikely that the Kawhi will take the court for the Spurs again this season, which is a massive blow for the playoff aspirations of Popovich and his men.

Warriors revenge on OKC.

The Warriors were blown off the court by the Thunder in their first two meetings of the season.

They lost the first contest back in November by 17-points and the second clash went from bad to worse as they were handed a 20-point loss by Westbrook and co.

The pair squared off for the third time on Sunday and the result was decidedly different.

After leading by just seven points at half-time, the Warriors buried the Thunder in a third-quarter scoring avalanche and ran out victors by 32-points.

Kevin Durant dropped 28 points on his former squad, while Curry chimed in with 21 of his own.

Westbrook and Paul George combined for 5-29 shooting, while the Thunder shot just 33% from the floor and 26% from beyond the arc.

The Warriors found their electric ball-movement once again.

And when Nick Young is doing this, you officially can’t beat the Warriors.

Risers/Sliders

standings - week 7Photo credit: ESPN 

Riser

Houston, we do not have a problem! The Rocket are rolling, Harden is the front-runner for the MVP, Chris Paul is wearing rodeo outfits to games, and Houston has won 12 contests in a row and sit with the best record in the entire league. All is well in Texas.

Slider

The Miami Heat are barely clinging to their playoff spot after winning just 2 of their last ten contests. Over their last ten, the Heat have lost to the Cavs by 2, Sixers by ironically 6, Pistons by 4, Magic by 2, Rockets by 8, Raptors by 3, Sixers by 2 and Pelicans by 1 in overtime. They need a go-to clutch scorer down the stretch, because that kind of record in close games usually doesn’t belong to a playoff-bound franchise.

Heat Check

LaMarcus Aldridge

vs. Nuggets – 38 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists

vs. Cavaliers – 27 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 block

After logging just 4 minutes and 0 points in the All-Star game last week, Aldridge was well and truly rested to begin the home-stretch of the regular season. He may not be the flashiest of players, but Aldridge deserves credit for the season he is piecing together. He has almost returned to his Portland form, averaging just under 23 points and 8 rebounds per game, becoming the staple of the Spurs offense with Kawhi on the bench.

Dejounte Murray certainly appreciates what Aldridge brings to the team.

Highlights

Bam Adebayo is making a habit of hurting rims feelings.

First Dame did this…

Then he reminded us what time it was.

Westbrook called game.

https://twitter.com/All_SportNews/status/966968508289515520

Steph called range.

https://twitter.com/JaeAzizi/status/966887503356547075

Whoopsie Watch

Has Blake lost his superpowers since leaving LA?

Kelly Oubre just went all school-yard petty on Rodney Hood

https://twitter.com/MusikFan4Life/status/966928210096046080

The Kelly Oubre appreciation show continues…

The Give and Go (Ep.2) – Welcome to the Cavs 2.0

It’s all coming up rosy early days for the new Cavs outfit, with defense, smiles and wins aplenty. However, do the new additions catapult the Cavs back into the front-runner for the East and make them a genuine contender against the Warriors? (1:00). We then debate whether the Thunder have found the blueprint to beat the Warriors (11:20), before breaking down the Jazz’s ten game winning streak (19:40). Finally, we discuss the impact of Isaiah Thomas’ move to LA on Lonzo, the Lakers and IT himself (24:30).

Russell Westbrook – Statistics or Success?

Russell Westbrook has been unleashed. The chains are off and the one-man wrecking machine is re-writing the history books on a nightly basis.

As we approach the halfway mark of the season, Westbrook is averaging a triple double. Only one man in NBA history has achieved that feat over the course of an entire season. That being Hall of Famer Oscar Robertson in 1962.

Whether Westbrook can maintain his historic output remains to be seen, although the point guard out of UCLA is showing no signs of slowing down.

Which is hardly surprising, considering Westbrook knows no other way to play. He is full steam ahead, borderline out of control as he careens down the court with a bee line for the basket.

His raw, untamed athleticism is the stuff of nightmares for any defense, which is largely why the Thunder sit with a respectable 21-16 record, despite the loss of their former MVP, Kevin Durant.

This is Westbrook’s team now. He no longer has to play second fiddle to Durant, he is the captain of the ship.

Many experts felt that a ship with Westbrook at the helm would be destined for failure, although Westbrook is doing his best to prove the doubters wrong.

31.4 points. 10.5 rebounds. 10.3 assists. They are incredible numbers for anyone, let alone a 6’ 3” point guard.

He draws the best defender on a nightly basis and headlines every oppositions scouting report, yet game after game Westbrook continues to produce his absurd numbers.

Some may call it ball-hogging or stat-chasing, but in a Thunder team lacking shot creators, Westbrooks aggressiveness is crucial to his team’s success.

Despite his form, Westbrook still has a few chinks in his armour. His decision making, while improved, is still questionable at times, especially in crunch-time situations.

Westbrook leads the league in three-pointers attempted in crunch time (final five minutes of a game where the point difference is five points of fewer) with 32 attempts. Last season he had only 30 attempts over the course of 82 games.

If we were talking about Stephen Curry, this would not be a discussion point. However, Westbrook is a career 31% shooter from deep. Yet when the game is on the line, Westbrook regularly seems content to ignore his strengths and cast up fade-away, awkward threes that more than often don’t fall.

For an athlete that can get to the rim at will, Westbrook has a habit of making the big shots harder than they need to be.

Despite his flaws, Westbrook is still one of the most complete players the game has ever seen.

He is made for the big stage, born for the spotlight. Yet he now faces arguably the biggest dilemma of his career.

After being lauded for his loyalty, Westbrook is now stuck on a Thunder line-up with very little help.

If he continues his historic stat line he will likely win the MVP award. But the ultimate dream of winning a Championship will still be just out of reach.

Westbrook is the undeniable king of the triple double. But he is also a king without a coveted ring.

Westbrook has the talent to lead a team to the Finals and an elusive Championship, but only time will tell if he can turn statistics into success.