Just ask Russell Westbrook.
In the past, Westbrook was the target of criticism for shooting too much, not playing enough like a point guard and not getting the ball enough to Kevin Durant. Most of the complaints seemed to disappear this season when the Thunder catapulted their way to the Finals because more often than not, Westbrook was making shots – clutch ones at that – and the team kept winning. It doesn’t matter how many times you shoot if you’re making them, and it especially does not matter if you’re winning.
The problem in Game 2 of the NBA Finals? Westbrook missed too many shots (10-of-26) and the Thunder lost the game. The blame game against him went through the roof from there.
Magic Johnson was the first to do so, ripping him during the halftime segment. ”That was the worst point guard play I’ve ever seen in a championship game.” he said. Johnson and the rest of the crew continued to chime in on the poor play of the point guard after the game, which can be seen here.
Stephen A. Smith followed up on the matter this morning on ESPN’s First Take: “It was one of the most horrible performances by a point guard I have ever encountered,” Smith said. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”
The complaint didn’t stop there, as you will see from Gregg Doyel of CBS Sports:
The story, to me, was the first five minutes of the game, when the Thunder fell and couldn’t get up. Why did they fall?
Well, Russell Westbrook is why. And that was apparent from the top row of Chesapeake Energy Arena, where I couldn’t tell Perkins from Ibaka or Haslem from Bosh, but I could tell something was wrong with Russell Westbrook.
He was hyper. Distracted. Erratic, out of control. He was doing the one thing he does when he’s playing poorly — he was playing too fast, and this is a guy whose speed is one of his greatest attributes. In the Western Conference finals he chased down Spurs blur Tony Parker, making a play Brooks said couldn’t be made by more than two or three guys in the world. Playing fast is what Westbrook does, and he does it well.
Playing too fast? It’s also what he does from time to time, and it’s his worst quality. He is so quick that he can get any shot he wants, whenever he wants it, but he hasn’t learned the discretion to choose wisely. And he chose poorly in the first few minutes of Game 2.
Did Westbrook play a terrible first quarter? Yes, he shot 1-of-7 to begin the game. Could he have passed a little more to Kevin Durant? Surely.
Is that enough to say we witnessed the worst point guard performance of all time in the Finals? Is it fair to blame him for the loss?
It’s safe to say the media may be hitting a bit too hard here because obviously, you can’t pin all the blame on Westbrook. You can say the numbers lie sometimes (a true statement), but 27 points (despite 26 shots), eight rebounds and seven assists with two turnovers can only lie so much. Every other part of his game was still intact as well, from defense to hustle. Oh, and no one told the Thunder that Shane Battier would turn into Ray Allen 2.0.
The way Westbrook played in Game 2 is how he has played all season long. Simply put, he is a shot-taker. Everyone has off games, and we saw that with Dwyane Wade in Game 1. To crucify the man because those shots aren’t going in as much is simply unwarranted. Yes, he could pass a little more to Durant, but to say he needs to completely change his style of play is a discredit to everything the man has done to help his team get to where it’s at now.
Either way, Westbrook is not about to change his game because of what is being said outside of the locker room, so there is only one way for him to silence the critics as he did for much of this season.
Make more shots.
For Kobe Bryant’s thoughts on Kevin Durant, click here.
For Wednesday’s news featuring David Stern and Jim Rome, click here.
For all previous blog entries, click here.
James Park is a regular contributor and blogger for SheridanHoops.com. You can follow him on twitter @nbatupark.