The Oklahoma City Thunder are an immensely talented team boasting three players that have likely all earned themselves max contracts next time they're able to test the market. The most important of those players has come into question, however, as the Thunder attempt to hand the San Antonio Spurs their first loss of the NBA Playoffs.
Kevin Durant is typically the player keyed in on, and James Harden has earned quite a bit of respect on his way to earning Sixth Man of the Year honors. Those following the Western Conference Finals from the Spurs perspective -- especially over at SB Nation's Pounding the Rock -- see point guard Russell Westbrook as the most important piece of the puzzle.
To win a championship, a team needs two types of toughness: physical and mental. The Thunder exhibited both of these characteristics against the Lakers. But just because a team shows toughness, does that mean all parts of the team are tough? Not necessarily. For this reason, I think Russell Westbrook is the key to this series.
The majority of OKC's offense comes from their version of the "Big 3". Kevin Durant is going to get his, no matter how great Jax and Kawhi's defense is. He's that elite of a scorer, but of course it helps to limit his touches. James Harden's got game, but he's the only creator on their 2nd unit, thereby limiting his effectiveness against a good bench (this is when OKC really misses Eric Maynor). However, the Spurs have no answer for Westbrook's athleticism, speed and ability to finish at the rim. So why was he non-existent in the 4th quarter?
It wouldn't seem to be in the best interest of those on the Spurs' side to rattle Westbrook's cage, but we'll hold our judgment until the conclusion of Game 2 to see how the young guard responds.
For more on the Spurs, be sure to visit Pounding the Rock, for the Thunder, Welcome to Loud City. And, if you're looking for news, analysis and everything else revolving around the NBA Playoffs, be sure to visit SB Nation's NBA page.