Russell Westbrook was his typically dominant self in the Oklahoma City Thunder’s 108-105 loss to the Chicago Bulls last night, tallying 43 points, eight boards, and seven dimes. But he slowed down in the fourth quarter following a brilliant third stanza, shooting 2-of-9 from the field and failing to notch an assist.
Any critique of Westbrook’s performance is mostly picking nits, and we’ve already done that by chastising his defense on E’Twaun Moore’s game-winning three-pointer with just over two seconds remaining. Russ was brilliant last night, even furthering his MVP candidacy despite those crunch-time failings.
What volumes it speaks of Westbrook’s growing maturity level that he copped to them after the game, too. Touching on the Thunder’s penultimate possession that ended with his own airball, the 26 year-old said he should have passed to an open Serge Ibaka.
It certainly seemed as if swinging the ball to Ibaka just inside the right wing would have been Westbrook’s best option. In fact, it also appeared that the Oklahoma City point guard saw his sweet-shooting big man pop open and simply elected against giving the ball up.
Ibaka scored 25 points against the Bulls on stellar 12-of-19 shooting that included a whopping nine long two-point jumpers. Furthering a problem that’s plagued the Thunder all year, though, he only took two shots in the game’s last 12 minutes. Ibaka certainly should have attempted three at the very least, and if he had there’s chance Oklahoma City might have left United Center with a win.
Thankfully, Westbrook understands his mistake. His mea culpa, though, comes just a week after he stressed a need to “trust his teammates” more following a close overtime loss to the Phoenix Suns. Russ did just that for most of Thursday’s game, but not when it hung in the balance.
We’ve no doubt he’ll make the right play when a similar opportunity next arises. Westbrook might love hoisting shots, but competitors like him love winning even more. And given his admission of guilt, it’s obvious he knows which option would have given the Thunder a better chance to do so.