Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
When Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook went down with a torn meniscus, we lost one of the most exciting players in basketball, but we gained something else: the opportunity to watch Kevin Durant unleashed.
Durant, who joined the 50-40-90 club this season by shooting 51 percent from the field, 42 percent from 3-point range and 91 percent on free-throw attempts, took 17.7 shots and 9.3 free throws per game.
His efficiency has enabled the team to put Westbrook in the best position to succeed by allowing him to dominate the ball. Westbrook is a volume scorer and is at his best when he controls the ball and dictates the pace.
The 24-year-old attempted 18.7 field goals and 7.0 free throws this season and ranked second in the NBA in usage rate, while Durant tied for eighth in usage rate.
The arrangement has been successful, with the Thunder posting a winning percentage over .600 in each of the last four seasons and above .700 in the last two.
The Thunder are not a better team without Westbrook, nor do they have a better shot at winning a title with Durant having to shoulder all of the load. But from a pure entertainment standpoint, I'm interested to see just what type of insane video-game numbers Durant is capable of.
Since Westbrook has never missed a game, the only time we have really seen Durant turn off his shooting conscience was on Aug. 1, 2011, when he went off for 66 points in a game at Rucker Park.
Of course, Durant doesn't have to prove anything. Regardless of what the 24- year-old does in the rest of these playoffs, his place among the NBA's elite is secure.
Durant has won three straight scoring titles and finished second in the scoring race to Carmelo Anthony this season. He's is the best all-around scorer and the second-best overall player in the NBA. And he's one of six players in the 50-40-90 club, along with Larry Bird, Mark Price, Reggie Miller, Steve Nash and Dirk Nowitzki.
But for Thunder fans, Durant fans and everyone who plays fantasy basketball, seeing what he does with free reign is one of the most intriguing subplots of this postseason.
Taking 30 shots, nine threes and 13 free throws like he did in Game 3 will become the norm for the rest of these playoffs, and with that type of volume, Durant just might turn the NBA playoffs into Rucker Park circa August 2011.