In otherwise sour season, Kevin Durant enjoyed ‘amazing’ Russell Westbrook

As the NBA season ended on Wednesday, the Oklahoma City Thunder were left out despite Russell Westbrook's ongoing heroics while Kevin Durant could only watch hurt.

Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook reacts after hitting a three-point shot against the Portland Trail Blazers on Monday. Sue Ogrocki / AP / April 13, 2015
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Kevin Durant used the word “amazing” several times as he described watching teammate Russell Westbrook elevate his game to an elite level.

It wasn't as fun sometimes for Durant when he heard NBA fans discussing it.

Westbrook’s season will go down as one of the best in recent NBA history. The Oklahoma City star averaged 28.1 points per game, joining Allen Iverson as the only point guards to win the scoring title in the past 35 years.

He also finished fourth in the league with 8.6 assists per contest and second with 2.1 steals a game. And his 7.3-rebound average is the highest by a point guard since Jason Kidd averaged 7.5 in 2007/08.

But Westbrook’s opportunities increased because Durant, last year’s MVP and a four-time scoring champion, missed most of the season with a broken bone in his right foot.

As Westbrook emerged from Durant’s significant shadow, there are now questions about whether the two will be able to co-exist next season.

“I couldn’t really enjoy it as much because when I watch TV, I hear all this comparing two teammates together all the time,” Durant said Thursday, one day after the Thunder’s season ended.

“It’s kind of tough to watch it sometimes. Then I hear everything – you know, if Russ is playing well, then I’m getting traded, and all this other stupid stuff. I’m like, ‘Let me just enjoy my teammate having success’.”

Westbrook had 11 triple-double games, the most in a season since Kidd had 13 in 2007/08. He had four straight triple-doubles at one point, and back-to-back 40-point triple-double games. Neither had been accomplished since Michael Jordan did both during an incredible stretch late in the 1988/89 season.

He also scored 41 points in the NBA All-Star game, a point short of Wilt Chamberlain’s 53-year-old record, on his way to being named the game’s MVP.

He did most of this without Durant, who only played 27 games this season. The Thunder also played the last month of the season without Serge Ibaka, an emerging offensive player and one of the league’s best defenders. Several other Thunder players also missed significant time with injuries.

Westbrook was criticised at times for his high shot volume and his tendency to shoot jumpers when his greatest asset is using his speed and explosiveness to attack the basket.

He scored a career-high 54 points last Sunday against the Pacers, but he took 43 shots. He tied or set a new career high for three-point attempts three times in April while trying to keep his team afloat. He also led the league in turnovers per game.

“People outside want to criticise like always, but at the end of the day, we are the ones that know the truth,” Ibaka said. “We know Russ, he’s just trying to win. Sometimes, he can do that in the wrong way, but in the big picture, he’s just trying to win.”

Westbrook isn’t satisfied. He felt if he had played better late in games, the Thunder might not have missed the play-offs. Eight of Oklahoma City’s last 12 losses this season were by five or fewer points.

“I want to come back and be a better closer,” he said. “I think the last few games throughout the season, we lost a lot of games in the last five minutes of the game. As a point guard and as a leader, I’ve got to be able to close games the way that we want to.”

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