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We graded all 18 Russell Westbrook fourth-quarter shots. Some were really ugly.

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Westbrook shot 4 of 18 in the fourth quarter of Game 2 against the Rockets. At times, he had an open man.

Oklahoma City Thunder v Houston Rockets - Game Two Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

Russell Westbrook shot 4 of 18 in the fourth quarter of the Oklahoma City Thunder’s 115-111 Game 2 loss to the Houston Rockets on Wednesday. He took seven more shots than the rest of his team, but shot a markedly worse percentage

Many were critical of Westbrook’s shot selection after the game. They upbraided him for consistently taking bad shots that set his team back late in the game. Is that a fair criticism?

We took a look at all 18 of Westbrook’s fourth-quarter shots. In our analysis, we found that while some of his shots weren’t as bad as they seemed, Westbrook’s selection suffered as the game dragged on.

So what is a bad shot?

In most cases, it’s a shot that’s either heavily contested or outside of a player’s comfort zone. It’s also a shot taken with better options available.

But Russell Westbrook isn’t most cases. Russ has made more bad shots this season than most players would dare to attempt in their career. That considered, we have to set a new bar.

It can’t just be bad. It must be Russ-bad. It has to be a shot so bad, even Westbrook himself would look at it and say, “Damn, I’ve gotta chill.”

Not every shot Westbrook took on Wednesday was Russ-bad. Some of them were normal shots, and others were in fact great shots that didn’t fall.

But make no mistake, some were definite blunders.

Shot 1

This is a fairly easy shot by Russ standards. He had a clean look at the rim, but just missed the layup. (He also has an open Kyle Singler, but Eric Gordon could have gotten back to contest.)

Shot Grade: Good

Shot 2

Here, Westbrook has Clint Capela on an island. Any shot in this situation is good, and Russ uses the fear of his speed to create separation for an open mid-range jump shot. He misses it, but this is an open shot by your best player — a shot you’d bet money on him making time and time again.

(Note a semi-open Doug McDermott, as it soon becomes the theme of this story. Jerami Grant also has a clear shot, but his release is slow. That’ll also become a theme)

Shot Grade: Great

Shot 3

Russ uses a dirty hesitation crossover to blow by Eric Gordon, but Capela meets him at the rim to reject his shot. This is less a bad shot and more an amazing defensive effort. Any other defender and Westbrook likely finishes that attempt, plus the foul.

But Russ does have an open Doug McDermott in the corner, who is shooting 3 of 4 from three-point range at this point. If Westbrook had his head up, he may have been able to hit McBuckets in the corner after collapsing the defense with his slashing ability.

Shot Grade: Fair

Shot 4

Westbrook makes this shot. He gets the switch onto Capela, blows by him, and uses a pump fake to get him out of the picture for an easy foul-line jump shot.

But Westbrook had another, potentially more fruitful option as well.

In the left corner, Lou Williams leaves McDermott to help on Westbrook’s drive. Grant then sets a flare screen on Williams, ensuring he won’t be able to get back if Russ kicks it out to the shooter.

McDermott is shooting the left corner three at a respectable 36 percent clip this season and is 3 of 4 from downtown on the night. And while Russ got this shot to go, it’s on these types of plays — where he has teammates open in their comfort zones — when he needs to make the extra pass.

Shot Grade: Fair

Shot 5

Russ has Lou Williams on an island and settles for a pull-up three that barely grazes the rim. He shoots that contested triple instead of kicking out to McDermott, who is begging for the ball because he shoots the three at a 37 percent clip from the top of the line.

Shot Grade: Russ-bad

Shot 6

Again, Russ misses a wide-open McDermott here. It’s the third or fourth time Westbrook neglected to hit his open shooter. Instead he posts up Patrick Beverley and gets a step-back mid-range jumper to drop.

Shot Grade: Fair

Shot 7

This isn’t a bad shot attempt, but Westbrook misses badly. He dribbles by James Harden and gets to the paint for a drifting shot inside the foul line. Russ just hooks it to the left.

He could have hooked a pass to the left, where he has a wide-open Grant who shoots 41 percent from the left corner, albeit on limited attempts. He also has a wide-open McDermott, floating unperturbed about the three-point line.

This isn’t a bad shot. Westbrook’s taken worse, as you’ll see. But it’s the negligence of wide-open teammates that leaves a foul taste in the mouth on this possession.

Shot Grade: Bad

Shot 8

Russ is in a tough spot here with a solid perimeter defender checking him in Trevor Ariza. Ariza has long arms and great instincts, so the pull-up jumper here wasn’t the best idea. But Westbrook’s options here are limited.

Sure, he could have hit Andre Roberson for an open look, but defenses are daring him to shoot. Plus the paint is packed, with Harden completely shunning his defensive obligation on Roberson outside of 18 feet.

Russ is a confident mid-range shooter and got this one off before Ariza’s hand fully got up. It just didn’t drop for him

Shot Grade: Fair

Shot 9

Westbrook is coming downhill with a full head of steam. He just misses.

Shot Grade: Great

Shot 10

Westbrook shoots the left corner three at a surprisingly efficient 53.3 percent. But do not be fooled, he is not a shooter.

Moreover, Russ has 10 seconds on the clock with the 6’11, 250-pound Nene out on an island. He could have easily spun him around and gotten to a better place on the floor to take a shot. Or even better, he could have dribbled out of the corner, creating some space to go to work.

Pulling up for a corner three instead was lazy, and had Roberson not been there to clean Westbrook’s mess up, Houston could have turned his shot into two points on the other end.

Shot Grade: Russ-bad

Shot 11

This one speaks for itself. Westbrook looks less like himself and more like Reggie Jackson here, dribbling into an oblivion before attacking Anderson.

Westbrook’s options here were limited, to be fair. The Rockets were able to play everyone straight up with Ariza checking him and brought help off the other four Thunder players. But Westbrook could have made a last-second dump off to Taj Gibson, who became free right as Russ got to the dotted line.

In Westbrook’s defense, those options didn’t show face until it was too late.

Shot Grade: Bad

Shot 12

We can’t penalize Westbrook for having limited options, and there were certainly slim pickings on this play. You can argue he could have given the ball to Victor Oladipo before making his move, but he’s backing away from Westbrook and doesn’t appear to want it.

Russ could have also made last-second hand off to Steven Adams, who may have been able to get his floater off before a defender contested.

But that’s a risky pass for a what-if bucket. Instead, Westbrook got to the paint to take a fading shot. That’s one the Thunder can live with because there are no other options.

Shot Grade: Fair/Good

Shot 13

Again, Westbrook settles for a contested three-pointer with only Nene guarding him. This could be a byproduct of the energy he exhausted through the season. He gets this one off before Nene can leave his feet, but Westbrook isn’t a knockdown shooter.

Settling for a three-pointer with an obvious mismatch is not only a bad shot, but it’s detrimental to a team that relies solely on Russ’ ability to get to the paint and create.

Shot Grade: Russ-bad

Shot 14

Westbrook finally makes the pass he should have made all game long, but his shooters are cold and not as wide open. Oladipo misses the corner three, and Grant gets the rebound before kicking back to Westbrook.

The Thunder are down eight with less than 1:30 left, but Russ tries to draw a foul on a three-pointer instead of getting a clean look up. He comes up with all backboard and doesn’t get back, allowing Eric Gordon to leak out and get the game-sealing layup.

Instead of trying to draw the foul, Russ could have done two things: Pass back to Grant for an open shot or take a dribble to the left for a more open attempt.

Shot Grade: Russ-bad

Shot 15

Had this shot not gone in, it would have been the worst of the game. But it did, and it was a much-needed triple to give the Thunder a boost for the game’s final minute.

Oklahoma City needed a three and Russ got them one, fast. That’s about all you can ask for when battling a 10-point deficit with 1:15 left on the clock.

(This is also negligence on the referees’ part for not calling an obvious backcourt violation.)

Shot Grade: Fair

Shots 16 and 17

There isn’t much Westbrook, or anyone else for that matter, can do at this point. The Thunder are down six and need a three, a stop, and then another three. That means the first triple has to come fast.

Russ draws the short end of the stick with Ariza guarding him and has to put up a contested triple. He misses, but the rebound is tapped into the back court and grabbed by Oladipo, who then finds Westbrook wide open for a shot that can cut the deficit to just three.

Damn.

Shot 16 Grade: Desperation

Shot 17 Grade: Great

Shot 18

The Thunder are still down just six and time is ticking. You want a three, but any points on the board at this point will do. Roberson is open at the wing for a split second, and while he is an improved distance shooter, he’s not reliable — not yet.

Westbrook could have also hoisted up a three, but it doesn’t make sense to turn down points on the board.

Shot Grade: Fair


In all, many of Westbrook’s shots were questionable, but his selection is a product of his environment.

Yes, there were several possessions where he could have, and should have, passed to the open shooter. McDermott and Grant were free in the corner on several occasions where Westbrook settled for a contested shot.

But these are also the shots Westbrook has made in crunch time throughout the course of the season. They’re shots that have powered an otherwise hapless Thunder team to the West’s sixth seed and all but cemented Westbrook’s case as the Most Valuable Player this season.

The Thunder blew a 12-point lead when Billy Donovan took Russ out at the end of the third quarter. That’s where the game was lost. Make or miss, Westbrook is the Thunder offense.

And if a 4-of-18 shooting fourth quarter is what Oklahoma City got on Thursday, it’s what they have to live with knowing those shots are what got them to the playoffs in the first place.