Russell Westbrook can be streaky. His engine revs up, but at times, he loses control, fishtails it out the garage and can lose a game due to his overzealousness. However, since the calendar flipped to 2018 he and the Oklahoma City Thunder have been cruising. Their run continued against the Brooklyn Nets on Tuesday night.
The Thunder began the fourth quarter trailing by 11, but managed to chip away at the Nets lead. After Spencer Dinwiddie’s lay-up gave Brooklyn the lead with fewer than 10 seconds left in regulation, it was Westbrook’s chance to respond.
Following a timeout that advanced the ball, Paul George tossed the inbound pass to Westbrook a few feet behind the three-point arc, while Dinwiddie staved off a Steven Adams screen. However, in his urgency George ran into and knocked Dinwiddie to the floor as he cut to the corner, leaving Westbrook with a runway for liftoff into the lane.
Nets center Jarrett Allen contested Westbrook at the rim, but the reigning MVP used his body as a shield to keep Allen from getting a hand on his attempt and banked in a tough go-ahead lay-in off the glass.
Dinwiddie had another opportunity to one-up Westbrook on the final possession, but was locked up by Andre Roberson and his step-back prayer resulted in an airball that grazed the bottom of the net. Westbrook’s game-winner also ruined what would have been Dinwiddie’s second game-winning bucket in as many days, and fourth in January.
In 36 minutes, Westbrook recorded 32 points, six assists and five rebounds on 12-of-27 shooting. His efficiency will always leave much to be desired, but the Thunder are hitting their stride in the midst of Westbrook’s best month isn’t a coincidence. As Westbrook goes, so goes the Thunder. Since the New Year, Westbook has averaged 24.6 points on 48 percent shooting, 10.4 assists and 9.8 rebounds.
During that 10 game span, the Thunder have won seven of 10 and the win over Brooklyn extended their current winning streak to five games.
Despite Westbrook’s beef with officials this month, they may have given him a break against the Nets.
“It was a heck of a play by Westbrook at the rim,” Nets coach Kenny Atkinson said of the winning basket, per Newsday. “There was a collision between Paul George and I think it was Spencer. That kind of turned Westbrook to the rim, and we were a little late getting to him.”
After the game, Dinwiddie would compare the collision with George to an illegal NFL pick play between receivers.
“You know how in the NFL, they say receivers can’t cross and then hit the defender out of nowhere? You can’t just run and hit the defender. I think it was a very similar situation to that. He [George] just kind of ran. I was running after Westbrook because obviously he had the ball. I just hit something and I think I fell or something like that,” Dinwiddie rationalized. “But if I run him over, then it’s probably a foul on me. It’s life. That’s Russell Westbrook and that’s Paul George and I’m Spencer Dinwiddie.”
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