After Oklahoma City’s Game 2 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers, everyone pointed the finger at Russell Westbrook who played one of his worst games of the season. After that performance, in his postgame interview, he took full responsibility for the Thunder dropping the game and promised he would do better on Friday night in Oklahoma City and beyond.
He honored that promise in Game 3 and it was in the best way. When he made that statement, some took it as him whole-heartedly intending to take the next game over, which could be a bad thing if that means him taking 35 shots. Luckily, the Thunder got the literal best version of Westbrook, who had his best and most well-rounded performance of this series with Portland.
The Thunder narrowed Portland’s series lead to (2-1).
In the first half, you could tell Westbrook’s mindset was geared towards feeling this game out and getting in where he could fit in. There were some hiccups along the way for sure; he turned the ball over twice in the first quarter and five times by halftime. In his defense, both teams started this game sloppily, with neither team being able to get much going on the offensive end of the floor.
What matters is the way Westbrook closed the game out. He kept his composure (other than the late fourth-quarter technical foul for jawing at Portland’s Damian Lillard too much) and played a lead role in the Thunder weathering the storm in the third quarter where Lillard torched OKC for 25 points.
After Westbrook’s five first-half turnovers, he didn’t commit another, and the Thunder as a team only committed five in the second half. In regards to Westbrook’s shot selection, he stayed within his range, he wasn’t as spastic on the offensive end, and he wasn’t forcing things, trying to keep up with Lillard and his ridiculously dominant third quarter. He just did what he needed to do for the Thunder to get a win this series.
Westbrook finished Game 3 with 33 points on 11-22 shooting, a perfect 50 percent and added 11 assists, and five rebounds. More importantly, his shot selection made the difference. There weren’t as many ill-advised 3-point attempts. He shot 4-of-6 from long distance and there were only two of those shots that you may consider erratic.
Westbrook stuck to his statement, and he truly was better in Game 3. For the Thunder to win this series, he’ll have to take this same approach and execute the way he did. Sunday will be the next test for the Thunder. Will Westbrook continue to play an efficient, balanced brand of basketball or will he feel the urge to do it all?