Russell Westbrook.

Russell Westbrook says team must improve mental toughness next season

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The 2016 NBA playoffs may be a re-run of last year's series as the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers do battle for the Larry O'Brien Trophy for the second straight year.

For a while, though, with the Oklahoma City Thunder up 3-1 against the reigning champions, it looked like it would be Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and co. who would be representing the Western Conference. 

But they were unable to win a crucial fourth game and, ultimately, allowed the Dubs to stage a monumental comeback to win the semi final series 4-3.

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Speaking during OKC's exit interviews, Westbrook has admitted the team must strengthen its mental toughness if they are to take the next step next season:

“Mental toughness,” the 2016 All-Star said when asked where the Thunder can improve. “I think we’ve gotten very, very well at that point, but I think to make the next step, we have to constantly do that throughout the whole season, not just late in the playoffs.

"Because I thought we turned the page when it got to this time of year, but I think if we constantly keep that from start to finish, it makes it easier for us in certain situations.”

Golden State Warriors v Oklahoma City Thunder - Game Six

Although a bitter pill to swallow just now, Oklahoma City may be able to learn from the manner of their playoff exit and use it to grow stronger as a team next season.

Having impressed so many with their postseason play - after an inconsistent regular season - there is no doubt the Thunder can challenge again next year if they can find the mental toughness to add to their talented on-court ability.

Western Conference
NBA Playoffs
Russell Westbrook
Oklahoma City Thunder
Northwest Division
Kevin Durant

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