Russell Westbrook sinks near-halfcourt shot
by Adi Joseph, USA TODAY Sports
Russell Westbrook’s mother probably told him he could do anything he puts his mind to. She was right.
When the Oklahoma City Thunder point guard is hot, he can’t miss. And he was dropping 35-foot shots Sunday.
Westbrook had 27 points 10 assists, six rebounds and four steals to mitigate eight turnovers in a 106-91 win against the Cleveland Cavaliers. The erratic All-Star made 10 of 16 from the field and four of six from three-point range, and the Thunder were plus 11 in his 40 minutes on court.
His big moment came when he received an inbound pass with 2.7 seconds remaining in the third quarter and the Thunder leading 76-73. Westbrook quickly strode up court, passed the halfcourt line and fired from 35 feet. The ball banked in. The shot counted. The Thunder pulled away from there.
Criticism of Westbrook has taken a sharp rise in the past six months. He was up-and-down throughout the playoffs for the Western Conference champion Thunder, finishing on a down note with a 4-for-20 shooting performance in the decisive Game 5 of the NBA Finals against the Miami Heat. And he didn’t helped himself by shooting 36.4% in this season’s first six games.
But the real problem may be James Harden, Westbrook’s friend and former teammate. Harden was traded from the Thunder this offseason because the team didn’t have enough money to keep him. That cap space is taken big extensions for Kevin Durant, Serge Ibaka and Westbrook.
No one questions locking Durant up. But Ibaka and Westbrook will be compared to Harden for years to come. And Harden has blossomed for the Houston Rockets, averaging 26.5 points, 5.2 rebounds and 4.5 assists a game after coming off the Thunder bench last season.
The Thunder kept Ibaka because of his unique skill set as an elite shot-blocker capable of banging inside and hitting open jumpers. They kept Westbrook because of days like Sunday, days when he can’t be stopped.