Russell Westbrook, Anthony Davis And The Race For 8th Place

Don’t call it a comeback.

The Memphis Grizzlies have been doing to teams what they did to the New Orleans Pelicans for years, just not in such spectacular offensive fashion.

Let’s say it was a return to defensive form for Memphis with all the scrappy, tough, relentless effort they’re known for on display in all its glory in their 110-74 win over New Orleans. For the Grizz, it was an effort that had been M.I.A. over the last several games.

And with that loss, the Pelicans moved into a tie for the 8th seed with the Oklahoma City Thunder in the West. They’ve managed to keep their playoff hopes alive and that’s probably supposed to be good news, except that I wouldn’t wish that fate on my worst enemy at this point.

Russell Westbrook is playing like a crazy person right now, a mad man with zero concern for his own health or body or the possibility of broken bones. He’s an unhinged, reckless scoring machine singularly focused on getting his team to the playoffs…and winning MVP and winning the scoring title over his old teammate, James Harden, and showing the world he can get things done without Kevin Durant.

Westbrook has a lot riding on this 8th seed and isn’t the kind of guy that you want to have to sit around and wait for to make a mistake.

Anthony Davis was a part of the MVP discussion early in the season. In fact, it’s really amazing to think about how differently their injuries have affected him and Westbrook’s 2014-2015 storylines. The third year man’s stock seemed to drop while the seven-year vet’s skyrocketed. Even as their teams prepare to duke it out over these last four games for a chance to play on past next week, their respective chances for individual accolades couldn’t have traveled a more opposite trajectory.

Make no bones about it, Davis is a young, bright spot in the league. He is, from all indications, on the path to NBA greatness in the not too distant future. His time off with an injured right shoulder, however, was just long enough to let a few of his NBA brethren move in and dominate the who’s who conversations of the present moment, not the least of which is Westbrook.

Speaking of these last four games and a chance to play the Golden State Warriors in the first round, the remaining schedule might be the real MVP.

Beginning tonight both New Orleans and Oklahoma City will play two games away and two games at home through April 15. Their match-ups happen on the same nights. They will both face the Timberwolves over the final stretch. The similarities end there though as, in addition to the Minnesota Timberwolves, the Thunder will face the Sacramento Kings, Indiana Pacers and Portland Trailblazers to close the season. The Pelicans will have the Phoenix Suns, Houston Rockets and defending champion San Antonio Spurs with which to contend.

I spy two playoff bound teams for Davis and company and just one for Westbrook and his band of merry men. The Spurs do, however, have a history of resting their stars and losing their last game of the season. They’ve lost four out of their last five so, if you’re looking for something to kind of, sort of even the playing field, there’s that.

By then, though, it could be too late for New Orleans.

And so, the team that at one time in another version of itself helped make way for the citizens of Oklahoma City to get an NBA franchise by giving them an opportunity to showcase their love of NBA basketball will likely help open the door for those same citizens to enjoy this year’s playoffs up close and personal.

And we’ll have to wait at least one more year to see what Davis looks like in playoff form.

Fortunately we’ll have Westbrook’s madness to help fill the void that his absence will leave in our hearts, at least for the first round anyway.

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