If anyone needed a reminder on how good Russell Westbrook is, just watch the tape of last night's Rockets-Thunder tilt again. It's not that the Thunder lost. It's how they lost. After Durant, they were outclassed by every Houston player 2-7. It's how when the offense grinds to a halt, there is no threat of Russell careening to the rim and making something good happen. It's how the team, including Durant, was left taking hurried, pull-up Js (the same ones we criticize Russell for). It's how the Houston defense didn't get more creative than: you stick to Kevin and we'll cover the rest of the court.
There are effects that an injury like Danilo Gallinari's had on the Nuggets depth (more on that later), then there are these injuries that change the entire complexion of a team. And lest anyone forget, though the Thunder did win 3 straight games to start the series (the last without Westbrook), two of those were very close. This wasn't an easy series even with all of there guys. Now it's a dogfight. I still think OKC wins because it's still hard to beat someone four straight times, but the whole complexion of the team changes, and it certainly won't be easy. They looked barely better than a .500 team last night, a 6th seed at best. Is that the Russell Westbrook difference? Is he the difference between 50-60 wins? He's a top 10 player, right? Top 7? Surely not top 5?