The farther the Oklahoma City Thunder go in the NBA playoffs, it seems the more criticism Russell Westbrook draws for being a score-first point guard. Despite finishing with 27 points, eight rebounds and seven assists and leading the Thunder's comeback in the third quarter, he shot just 10-26 and was a key player in his team falling down 18 points to the Miami Heat -- a deficit that apparently was just too large to overcome.
The same chorus was bandied about during last year's Western Conference Finals, when Westbrook dominated the ball for long stretches while Kevin Durant, the league's leading scorer, stood idly by. There was speculation the two weren't getting along off the court — luckily that has stopped, as the two seem closer than most teammates in the league — but it was clear something wasn't clicking again.
After dropping Game 2, Westbrook is hearing the same criticism as last year, but he's championing the #LetWestbrookBeWestbrook movement that has surfaced around the NBA blogosphere during Thunder playoff games. This is what he said during Saturday's media session in Miami (quoted from Boston.com):
"I'm not making no adjustments,'' Westbrook said. "Regardless of what anybody says or regardless of what you guys say about how I play. It doesn't matter. I'm going to play my game regardless of what happens. I'm going to go out and give 110 percent and try to find a way to help us win the game.''
And, despite all the criticism, that's the right attitude. Westbrook was an All-NBA player this year and is one of the few players in the league capable of averaging 23.8 points, 5.5 assists and 1.7 steals a game. He routinely throws down devastating dunks that have enormous impact on crowds both home and away, and, without his scoring mentality, the Thunder would have just one scorer in their starting lineup, which simply isn't enough.
Keep doin' you, Russ. You'll be fine, and so will your team.
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