Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook has drawn criticism for his decision-making and shot selection that has contributed to the Thunder falling behind the Miami Heatin the first halves of Games 1 and 2.
ABC analyst Magic Johnson said Westbrook had one of the worst performances for a point guard in the Finals that he’d seen, after the Heat built a 17-point lead in the first half of Game 2 en route to a 100-96 win, evening the series at 1-1. ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith was just as critical, among others.
“I’m not making no adjustments, regardless of what anybody says,” Westbrook said Saturday before the Thunder’s practice. “I’m going to play my game regardless of what happens.”
Westbrook is averaging what would seem like an impressive 27 points, eight rebounds and nine assists in the Finals, but it’s his 40 percent shooting on a team-high 50 shots in the first two games that’s garnered more ire. Kevin Durant, who is shooting a remarkable 57 percent in the Finals, has taken eight fewer shots.
Teammates and coach Scott Brooks, however, have been staunch in defending Westbrook’s play.
“We need Russell to score. I know some (people) don’t like that,” Brooks said. “He got off to a bad start but he came back. Him and Kevin are both terrific players, they both have to score points for us to be successful. I don’t look at who gets more, who doesn’t get more. I look at the quality of the shots. Could Russell have taken two or three better shots? Absolutely. Going into (Game 3), hopefully that’s the case.”
Said Durant: “Everyone thinks he should be a traditional point guard like a (John) Stockton. There’s a lot of people that cannot be like Russ either. Of course he’s going to make mistakes.”
This is the continuation of an issue that has been a common talking point since the playoffs last year. The shot comparison between Durant and Westbrook is closely watched by critics. Westbrook’s attitude on the matter has remained mostly constant.
“It’s just something that comes along with the territory,” Westbrook said. “We’re in the NBA Finals now and the more negative you hear, the better you’re doing. That’s how I look at it.”