Russell Westbrook going back into the arena after the Oklahoma City Thunder’s 98-105 defeat at the hands of the Denver Nuggets could be the perfect visual to help understand the fight that rages on a nightly basis in the mind of one of the greatest athletes this world has ever seen.
Westbrook struggled with his shooting against the Nuggets, going 6-of-23 from the floor and 1-of-12 from three-point range while his woes at the free throw line also continued as he went 3-of-7 from the line. In the fourth quarter, the Thunder fought back from 25 points down to cut the lead to five; the fightback was stopped by Westbrook going 0-of-5 in the fourth from 3 and 0-of-6 overall from the field. Westbrook going 1-of-12 from three-point range isn’t as shocking to a person that watches Westbrook play regularly. Westbrook has always had the mentality that the next shot will go in and his determination will not waver.
“Russ wants to win, as we all do, but I get you guys sense that by the way the passion he plays at,” Paul George said. “Russ always wants to win. He’s going to take it hard, every loss. That’s just how he’s made up.”
George, who finished the night with 24 points on 8-of-21 shooting, including 3-of-6 from 3, told the media after the game that he had no issue with Westbrook’s shot selection against the Nuggets and his belief in his point guard to come up big again won’t change.
“Russ has the ability to take over a game down the stretch, but tonight those didn’t fall,” George said. “We’ve seen Russ get hot behind the 3-point line. He has a real good way of turning it on when you need him to.”
Westbrook finished with 16 points, 10 rebounds and 12 assists on the night which gave him his second triple-double of the season and 106 for his career one behind Jason Kidd with 107.
Westbrook talked to reporters after his alone shooting session after the game, and still, in the uniform, he wore for the game also sporting a somber tone.
“I’ll look at the film and see and figure out how I can be better,” Westbrook said. “But each game, in a loss, I figure out a way to make sure that my guys are ready to play, and I come back and improve some part of my game and read the game.”
Westbrook plays the game five vs. six when he steps onto the court as he battles his greatness on a nightly basis mainly on the offensive end. Tonight against the Nuggets was the perfect example of the battle Westbrook fights as he went 1-of-12 from deep and cost his team the game. On the flip side if you flashback to last season in game five against the Jazz Westbrook and the Thunder were starting down a five-game exit at the hands of a rookie led Jazz side when Westbrook and his greatness wouldn’t let it happen. It was as if in an instant Westbrook said ”No I won’t let this happen here in my house. Not tonight.” and got instantly hot from three-point range. Before the comeback at 7:57 of the third quarter, Westbrook was shooting 5-of-19 from the floor at 26.3 percent and 0-of-2 from three-point range than out of absolutely nowhere Westbrook said no. Westbrook would go on to shoot for the rest of the game 12-of-20 from the field at 60 percent and a staggering 5-of-7 from deep at 71.4 percent for a total of 33 points in only that span of the comeback. Westbrook will fight himself until the final buzzer. Believing that his greatness will pull him and the Thunder through and some nights it does but then there are the nights like last night and the game against the Boston Celtics a couple of weeks ago when it doesn’t show up, and the Thunder ultimately lose.
When will Thunder fans accept this is who Russell Westbrook is? He is flawed. That’s precisely where the beauty lies with Westbrook. It’s the flaws that make him so damn unique, not just the godly athleticism or the incredible hot streaks he goes on from long range. It’s in these nights when his greatness and mentality, fail him but he understands that and stays for hours after the game still fighting himself in an empty arena chasing his greatness. Nobody wants to win as badly as Westbrook does absolutely nobody and weirdly enough that’s also what’s holding him back but man when he eventually does win it will there ever have been a man more deserving then Russell Westbrook?