The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Kobe Bryant defends Russell Westbrook’s 43-shot performance

Thunder guard Russell Westbrook shoots over Pacers center Roy Hibbert Sunday. (AJ Mast/Associated Press)

Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook posted some eye-popping numbers Sunday night against Indiana: 54 points, the third-highest total by an NBA player this season, along with nine rebounds and eight assists in 40 minutes 22 seconds of playing time. However, it was another number that caught many people’s attention after the game: 43, as in the number of shots Westbrook took.

After that game, the Thunder guard was asked about taking so many shots, and let’s just say he wasn’t exactly apologetic.

Given that Westbrook’s teammates, at least those healthy enough to play these days, don’t include Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka, but do include the likes of Andre Roberson and Nick Collison, it is plausible that they really didn’t mind the all-star guard’s license to shoot.

Nevertheless, Westbrook’s outing was noteworthy, as, according to ESPN, he took the most shots in a game since Kobe Bryant in 2008. The 43 shots were also tied for the eighth-most by one player in NBA history, and given that the Thunder wound up losing the game, not to mention crucial ground in the playoff race, some observers felt that the prolific performance may have been a bit much.

Leave it to Bryant himself, then, to rise to Westbrook’s defense:

In fairness, not all media members thought the shot attempts reflected so poorly on Westbrook. For instance, ESPN’s Tom Haberstroh pointed out that the guard out-performed another team’s entire quintet of starters:

Westbrook’s teammates were probably just relieved that he was available to play Monday night, in another critical game. By picking up a technical foul Sunday night, the guard had accounted for a different notable number: 16 techs, the point at which an NBA player gets an automatic suspension. However, that foul was rescinded on Monday, leaving Westbrook available to “compete harder than anybody else” against the Trail Blazers.