Farewell, 2016-17 Russell Westbrook

Good morning. We have that and more in Wednesday’s NBA newsletter.

The immaculate season of Russell Westbrook is over.

The Houston Rockets, who are excellent, dispatched Westbrook’s Oklahoma City Thunder 4-1 to move on in the West. Westbrook left this season the way he lived it: scoring like a maniac and watching his bench give up a lead. (In Game 5, the Thunder were +12 in Westbrook’s 42 minutes and -18 in the six minutes he sat. OKC lost by six. This was a common thread throughout the series.)

Westbrook fell one assist short of a triple-double, and shot just 5-18 on three-pointers. (Those 18 attempts tied the single-game playoff record. The others to shoot 18 in a playoff game: Ray Allen, Steph Curry, Damian Lillard and Klay Thompson.) His final game was, fittingly, a beautiful mess. But the Thunder were competitive with him on the court and a disaster without him. We’ll forever debate whether his style contributes to that fact. Perhaps the Thunder will be restocked by next fall and we’ll see a new look.

Westbrook was the best thing about the NBA all season long. It appears he will win the MVP over the Rockets’ James Harden. He’d rather be going to the second round, of course. Harden’s Houston is still alive, and we’ll be talking much more about them over the next couple of weeks as they face San Antonio or Memphis. Speaking of which …

Playoff Scores …

Thunder 99, Rockets 105 (HOU wins series 4-1)

Grizzlies 103, Spurs 116 (SAS leads 3-2)

Jazz 96, Clippers 92 (UTA leads 3-2)

… And Links Galore

The home team stayed dominant in Spurs vs. Grizzlies. San Antonio put away Game 5 with a late 12-0 run. Kawhi Leonard remains unstoppable. Mike Conley had another great game, but the Patty Mills vs. Andrew Harrison match-up off the bench is just completely untenable for Memphis. We’ll see if David Fizdale has any angles to fix it for Thursday’s game.

Jazz vs. Clippers stays amazing. There’s just so much tension in each game. Would you believe that Chris Paul was brilliant in this one but a Joe Johnson dagger sealed it? Of course you would. Of course Steve Ballmer would. The Jazz can advance at home on Thursday.

Wednesday’s schedule:
Hawks at Wizards, 6 p.m. ET, TNT (Series tied 2-2)
Bulls at Celtics, 8:30 p.m. ET, TNT (Series tied 2-2)

The Players’ Tribune put out the greatest essay of the season with the greatest headline-byline combo perhaps in history: “The NBA Is Lucky I’m Home Doing Damn Articles” by Dion Waiters. I implore you to read this magnificent piece of work. Glory be to the Dagger God.

Speaking of the New Heatles, Wright Thompson went deep on Pat Riley. Yeah. You’re going to want to read that one.

Westbrook and Patrick Beverley went face-to-face during the game, and continued their battle in their press conferences. I’m starting to think these guys don’t like each other.

As if the anti-Westbrook crew needed more ammo, Russ accidentally blocked a teammate’s putback attempt. That’s … unfortunate.

Rockets franchise owner Leslie Alexander stepped onto the court during play to talk to an official. The league says it’s investigating. The Rockets are definitely getting fined.

Rajon Rondo, who broke his thumb on his shooting hand like a week ago, is going to try to play on Wednesday. This is insane. Also, Rondo once played on a torn ACL, so …

Really interesting look at Draymond Green’s defensive excellence as a roamer from Mike Prada.

Paul Flannery and I theorize about why the NBA’s coaching carousel has stopped cold.

You’ll be shocked to learn that Gregg Popovich is a generous tipper.

Ramona Shelburne writes that the Rockets prove you need a star and a system to win big.

Rudy Gobert is mad his teammates won’t give French rappers a chance.

Here’s a full list of early entrants into the NBA Draft. The guys who haven’t inked an agent can still withdraw after the Combine. The internationals can withdraw even later.

Ernie Johnson admits to Shaq that he voted for Steve Nash for MVP in 2005. Shaq’s stunned silence says it all.

Jason Concepcion compares Kawhi to Peak Kobe. I have no comment on this matter.

Damian Lillard admits he’s now obsessed with beating the Warriors.

Guess who will host the NBA’s awards show? It’s not Kevin Hart. That will be cold comfort for many of you.

And finally: Tim Hardaway is out here claiming that Allen Iverson didn’t popularize the killer crossover, he did. Iverson kindly reminded us that Hardaway brought the crossover to the NBA, The Answer brought it to the Hall of Fame. Got ’em.

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