Anthony Davis deserves plenty of credit for the Pelicans’ win over the Thunder yesterday, but don’t overlook Oklahoma City’s late offensive collapse.
The Thunder went scoreless on their final six possessions, and Russell Westbrook was largely to blame. In the final five minutes, he shot 1-for-8, including 0-for-3 from beyond the arc, with two turnovers. Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman even noted Westbrook didn’t pass in the final 4:58.
Every season, Westbrook’s style comes under the microscope. We’ve reached that point this season, and Westbrook is being both dismissive and introspective.
Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman:
Thunder guard Russell Westbrook said Monday that he needs to cut back on the number of 3-pointers he attempts.
“I need to stop taking as many as I’m taking, to tell you the truth,” he said. “I’m going to take those down as the season goes along.”
“It’s not always a great shot for myself or my team. So I’ve got to do a better job of taking those out,” he said. “My advantage is attacking, regardless of who’s in front of me. That’s my advantage. And I’ve got to use my advantage to help my team and help myself.”
Let’s start with 3-pointers.
Westbrook is attempting 3.4 3-pointers per game, down from 4.7 last season. So, he’s going the right direction – just not significantly enough.
He’s shooting 29.2 percent from beyond the arc, an unhealthily low percentage. Too often, Westbrook forces jumpers, and it’s good he realizes that. Few players can attack the rim like he does. He should use his advantage.
Passing is another story, and this is an area where Westbrook takes too much heat.
Did he dominate the ball too much against the Pelicans? Yes, but what else was he supposed to do?
Kevin Durant was out, and Scott Brooks’ offense too often runs stagnant. There’s a lot of pressure on Westbrook to make something happen. Ideally, that something include more passing, but let’s not pretend mastering that responsibility comes easily.
That’s why I believe Westbrook takes too much unfair criticism for his style – in this case, quite literally. Contrary to Tramel’s count, Westbrook passed with 4:35 left. (Westbrook also had a turnover with 3:01 left classified as a bad pass, but he really just got his pocket picked.)
That said, if my best defense for Westbrook is that he threw a single pass in the final 4:58, that says something.
The discussion about his willingness to pass might be uncomfortable, and it’s human nature for him to get defensive. It is unfair that critics pile on when the team loses, even if his style also leads to wins. But the Thunder would be better off if Westbrook – and Brooks – make adjustments.
Westbrook cutting down on his 3s is a good start. Losing his periodic tunnel vision for his own shot would be another good step. A more-competent offense around him would make both easier.