In a dominant Game 4 win over the San Antonio Spurs, Thunder superstars Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant showed just how unbeatable OKC is when its stars are clicking.
Durant finished with 31 points, using a hot-shooting start to get the Thunder rolling. Westbrook wasn’t too bad himself, scoring 40 points to go along with 10 assists, 5 boards and 5 steals. If that sounds like a stat-line we haven’t seen in a long time, that’s because it is. It’s only happened once before, 25 years ago.
Per Elias, Westbrook joins Jordan as the only 2 to record 40+pts,10+ast,5+reb & 5+stl in a Playoff game(since stls became official, '73-74)
— NBA.com/Stats (@nbastats) May 28, 2014
No wonder Russ was feeling so good.
But should anyone really be surprised that the Thunder are rolling towards a Finals berth?
If NBA history has taught us anything, it’s that teams with a great 1-2 punch tend to win championships, plural.
While the 80’s were filled with super-teams like the Lakers who had Magic, Kareem, Worthy, Cooper, Scott, etc. the NBA from the Jordan era on has been dominated by these dynamic duos.
It’s very well known that the 90’s were dominated by a certain duo out of Chicago. Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen combined to win six of the decades ten championships. But the decade also featured title wins for Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler, as well as the beginning of a new dynasty in Hollywood, with Shaq and Kobe closing the decade out with their first title.
The trend has continued into the 2000’s. Shaq and Kobe kept their winning ways going for two more rings before splitting. Tim Duncan and Tony Parker teamed up to bring the Spurs two of the next three league titles, before Shaq went to Miami and won a ring with Dwyane Wade. A few years later the Kobe/Gasol Laker teams claimed multiple rings, and now the reigning two-time NBA Champion Heat are lead by the duo of Wade and Lebron James.
While there have been a few anomalies (the ’04 Pistons and ’11 Mavs come to mind), the majority of titles since Jordan started his winning ways have been claimed by teams with an unstoppable twosome.
The league is slowly working its way towards the era of the super team, but regardless of how much talent you accumulate, you need two stars who compliment each other to contend for a championship. To put it in the most basic terms, if your best player is as good as any other teams best player, and your second-best player is better than everyone else’s, you should be winning titles, again, plural.
This seems to be the case for this years Oklahoma City Thunder team. Kevin Durant is the reigning MVP, and as good of a top star as any in the league. And then there’s Westbrook, who could likely be the best player on 20-25 other teams in the NBA right now. Just take a look at what he has done this postseason:
Westbrook is averaging a ridiculous 27-8-8 with 2 steals PER GAME. IN THE PLAYOFFS.
And he’s the second best player on the Thunder.
With the return of Serge Ibaka, the Thunder roster is finally at full strength. This is bad news for the remaining playoff teams.
If OKC is able to complete the comeback from a 2-0 series deficit and move on to the NBA Finals, they likely will be met by the Miami Heat, another team boasting an incredible 1-2 punch with Lebron James and Dwyane Wade. With Lebron and Durant likely cancelling each others production out, the series could come down to who which team has the best number two between Westbrook and Wade (and to a lesser extent which team has the best third star as well) .
With the Thunder stars locked in for the foreseeable future, and plenty of other big name players (see: Love, Kevin and Anthony, Carmelo) likely to begin teaming up, the era of the Dynamic Duo should only continue to thrive.
And despite their struggles early on in the Conference Finals, the Thunder should be seen as the favorites to win the title this season. Not just because of Ibaka’s return, not because the team seems to be clicking, but because they have Durant and Westbrook. As history has shown us, when you have two top guys, you always have a chance.