Still getting acclimated to the attention he has received since the Oklahoma City Thunder became a relevant franchise, Westbrook takes in stride the harsh assessments — such as Hall of Fame point guard Magic Johnson declaring at halftime of Game 2 of the NBA Finals that Westbrook was “the worst point guard in the championship finals I’ve seen.”
Westbrook comes back seemingly more defiant.
“The more negative you hear, the better you’re doing,” Westbrook said, as the Thunder and Miami Heat prepare for Game 3 on Sunday at American Airlines Arena. “That’s how I look at it.”
Westbrook has scored more points than everyone except LeBron James and Kevin Durant in this series, but no one has taken more shots — which seems odd because he is listed as point guard, a position that historically requires creating scoring opportunities for teammates.
If Westbrook played on any team without Durant, his style might seem more palatable. But when Westbrook misses, he catches flak for taking away scoring opportunities from Durant, the three-time scoring champion, or James Harden, the sixth man of the year.
“They both have to score points for us to be successful,” Thunder Coach Scott Brooks said of Westbrook and Durant, the highest-scoring duo in the NBA this season and the only teammates to both finish in the top five in scoring. “I don’t look at who gets more, who doesn’t get more. I look at quality shots. Could Russell have taken two or three better shots? Absolutely. But they both need to score.”
Westbrook had 27 points, 11 assists and eight rebounds in a 105-94 win Game 1 and 27 points, eight rebounds and seven assists in Thursday’s 100-96 Thunder loss in Game 2. Westbrook took 24 shots in the opener, 26 on Thursday, but his 18 assists are the most among anyone in the series.
“I’m not making no adjustments,” Westbrook said, when asked about being a better point guard. “There’s always room for improvement, always room to get better. But the style of play that I play with, that’s not changing.”
Westbrook’s style works for him, for his team, and has Oklahoma City within three victories of an NBA title. He has the instincts of a scorer and not a setup man.
“He's such an aggressive, attacking player; I think even when he makes mistakes at times that they live with it because he creates so much on those assaults to the rim,” Heat Coach Erik Spoelstra said. “That relentlessness is probably part of his greatness.”