NBA Playoffs: Without Russell Westbrook, Washington Wizards are doomed

Washington Wizards Russell Westbrook. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
Washington Wizards Russell Westbrook. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports /

The Washington Wizards are down 0-2 to the Philadelphia 76ers. After the 25-point loss in game two, it’s clear that the gap between the number one team in the East and the number eight team may be wider than many of the Wizards faithful would have liked to admit before the series started.

Unfortunately, there’s a chance that things could get much worse. As the Wizards head home for the next two games of the series, they may be doing so without one of the players that willed them into the postseason.

After exiting the game two loss early with an ankle injury, Russell Westbrook was absent from Friday’s practice and is questionable for tonight’s game. Down 0-2, game three is a must-win game for the Wizards. However, if they take the floor without Westbrook, they are all but doomed.

Even though the Wizards had Westbrook in the first two games vs. the 76ers, he was not at his best, and the Wizards struggled because of it. From the start of March through the end of the regular season (40 games), Westbrook averaged an insane 23.7 points, 13.1 assists, and 12.6 rebounds while posting a true shooting percentage above 50 percent each month. It was an unbelievable run that ensured Westbrook averaged a triple-double for a full season for the fourth time in his career and propelled the Wizards into the playoffs for the first time since 2018.

The Washington Wizards are already in a bad place down 0-2. If they have to play the Philadelphia 76ers without Russell Westbrook, it will only get worse.

In the playoffs, though, it’s been a different story. Since the start of the postseason, play-in games included, Westbrook’s production has fallen off. In the four games thus far, he’s averaged 16 points, 11.25 assists, and 8.25 rebounds while shooting 36.2 percent from the field. The Wizards have gone 1-3 in the four games. Shooting percentage aside, those would be pretty decent numbers for most players. But Westbrook isn’t most players. Plus, he’s averaging over four turnovers per game over that span.

The version of Westbrook we’ve seen in the playoffs is reminiscent of what we saw at the start of the season when he played through a torn quad. It’s not great. However, not having him out there at all would be worse. Bradley Beal can carry the load to a certain extent. He’s scored 33 points in each of the first two playoff games vs. the best defense in the East. But the Wizards lost both games and are by far at their best when both Westbrook and Beal are playing at a high level. Having both members of their All-Star backcourt healthy and ready to go is the only way they’ll be able to steal a game in this series. Without that, you can forget it. And don’t even think about stealing four of the next six. Without Westbrook, it just ain’t happening.

Given the type of competitor that we know Westbrook to be, he’ll likely do everything in his power to make sure he’s on the court for game three. If he’s not, the Wizards are doomed.

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