After his astonishing-but-not-really-astonishing shooting act in Game 4, everyone was curious to see how Russell Westbrook would come out and perform in Game 5 of the Thunder vs. Nuggets series. Would he hijack the offense like he did in Game 4, when he took 30 shots and came up short in crunch time? Would he actually defer to Kevin Durant, his more highly-regarded teammate? Would someone have to threaten to beat him up if he shot the ball with under four minutes left? Would he stunt the rise of our favorite small-market team and alter the career arc of Durant himself? (To that last question: I guess there's no harm in bringing up the issue for discussion, but it's a little early, don't you think?).
In the end, Westbrook struggled. He forced things most of the game, shooting just 3-15 and dropping just four assists. He did defer in crunch time, though, ending zero possessions in the final three minutes as Durant took over. So that's a positive, I guess. At least he recognized that he didn't have it this time. (Note: I'm not being sarcastic here. I really do think this was an example of growth and a sign that his issue is more inexperience than selfishness).
Theories flew about what was causing Westbrook to play so poorly. Charles Barkley speculated that he was pouting about the criticism that he shot too much, and decided to prove a point. Kenny Smith said he was listening to the negative press too much and allowing it to affect his game. Both thought Westbrook desperately needed a few days off to calm himself down. I think we're seeing a 22-year old converted point guard have a couple bad games in a high-pressure situation for the first time in his career. No more, no less.
Still, given what we did see, this issue will certainly show itself again. Let's just hope we have more patience for Westbrook to work through it than we had these last few days.