Week in Review: Russell requires more adjectives

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USATSI

Since the Week in Review has quickly become “Westbrook in Review,” I decided I needed to open up the thesaurus to try to find some fresh words to describe Russell’s latest week of domination.  Suffice to say, I have a new list of words to illustrate Westbrook’s exhilarating play, and you, the reader, will get the benefit of enjoying my expanded vocabulary.

But in all seriousness, Westbrook has been phenomenal, as epitomized by the vast number of triple doubles he’s accumulated (for the record, I think I’m going to start referring to triple doubles as triple-Russells). There have been 30 triple-Russells in the NBA this season, and 23 percent of them were accomplished by Russell Westbrook.  He has more than James Harden, Lebron James, Kevin Durant, Steph Curry, LaMarcus Aldridge, Blake Griffin, Kyrie Irving, and Damien Lilliard COMBINED (side note, the total number of triple-Russells of that group is 3, all by James Harden).

In other words, Russ has been the most dominant player in the league this year.  He’s first in points, fourth in assists, tied for first in steals, and leads all guards in rebounds per game.  Masked or not, Westbrook has been nothing short of magnificent.

THE GAMES

  • Beat the Philadelphia 76ers at home, 123-118 (OT)
  • Lost to the Chicago Bulls in Chicago, 108-105
  • Beat the Toronto Raptors at home, 108-104

THE BEST PLAYER

Russell Westbrook.  Another week, another Russplosion.  Westbrook averaged 41 points, 11 rebounds, 11 assists, and three steals, on 45 percent shooting, including 38 percent from three.  According ESPN Stats & Info, Russ is pretty much awesome.  While Russell’s unwonted play in February drew comparisons to January 2014’s “Month of the Reaper,” Westbrook is showing no signs of regression and is loudly putting together one of the most exceptional stretches in recent NBA history.

The best part of this stretch is that Russ isn’t playing hero ball.  He’s getting his teammates involved.  Hat tip to DT commenter L0rv, per a Tom Haberstroh tweet, since February 1, Westbrook has created 346 points via his assists, which is more than Damian Lillard and Kyrie Irving combined (332 total).  For those unfamiliar with stats, that’s a lot.

THE BEST PERFORMANCE

Russell Westbrook against the Raptors.  Two triple-Russells, and a 43-8-7 game.  Again I’m left with the difficult decision of which performance to name as the best of the week.  My personal choice, however, is the Toronto game.  Westbrook had 30 points, 11 rebounds, and 17 assists (tying his career high for assists).

Let’s talk about how he is elevating his teammates.  It’s been the book on LeBron, that he “makes his teammates better,” but the same must be said of Westbrook.  Considering, for example, that Westbrook assisted on basically all of Ibaka’s and Kanter’s 42 points against Toronto, there is a growing stockpile of real, tangible evidence that Westbrook makes his teammates better. Kind of the mark of an MVP, isn’t it?

Honorable mention: Kanter’s 21-point, 12-rebound game against the Raptors.  Pretty cool we have a center who can do that, amirite?

THE BEST PLAY

waiters layup

Dion Waiters made a layup!

Okay, just kidding, that’s not the best play (but he really did make a contested layup!).

If it isn’t obvious by now, I love passing.  I loved passing classes when I was in school.  I love passing slow cars on the highway.  I love passing, er, I mean, delegating tasks.  And I love great passing in basketball.

best play

One thing that makes DJ Augustin such a great change of pace backup point guard is his ability to keep the dribble alive.  A lot of players (hi, Dion!) get into the lane and force up a shot or throw an errant pass.  Not DJ.  In this week’s best play, DJ keeps the dribble alive, scoots around and spots a curling Nick Collison, who then gives the dump off to McGary for an easy lay-in.  Team basketball as it should be.

Honorable mention: Check out Kanter’s spin move against the helpless DeMar DeRozan.  Toronto did sort of recover and triple team Kanter after the spin, but Kanter makes a savvy pass to a cutting Andre Roberson for the jam.  It’s illuminating what an offensively talented center can do for scoring points.

kanter spin

THE WORST PLAYER

Kyle Singler.  While Dion Waiters is often the source of contempt for many a Thunder fans, Singler, who’s attempting to keep the starting small forward position warm until Kevin Durant returns, was pretty much non-existent.  Over the last week, the total number of points scored by Singler can be counted on one hand (five).  In 51 total minutes, Singler scored 5 points, grabbed 10 rebounds, and had a single assist.  In fact, Singler had just one made bucket, an eFG% of just 18.8 percent, and a TS% of 28 percent.  Even defensively Singler struggled, allowing his man to shoot a shocking 72 percent from the field.

While Dion is often loudly awful, Singler is silently insignificant.  You can accept a quiet performance from your backup small forward getting 10 minutes a night, but you hope for more from your starter.  It’s like Singler caught a case of the Perry Jones.

THE WORST PERFORMANCE

Serge Ibaka and Enes Kanter against Philadelphia.   Against one of the worst teams in the league, the starting front-court tandem of Ibaka and Kanter was a near no-show.  Combined, the two big men scored 10 points and grabbed 8 rebounds.  On the flip side, Russ by himself scored 49 points and pulled down 15 rebounds.  When your point guard grabs nearly double the amount of rebounds of your starting power forward and center, that’s not good.

Really, if not for Ibaka swatting away four shots and playing solid defense (and Russ saving the day), this would have been a downright debacle.

THE WORST PLAY

Despite squandering a double digit fourth-quarter lead, the Thunder kept Chicago at bay and held a 105-103 lead with just under five seconds left to play.  Then this happened.

worst play

It was E’Twaun Moore’s (who?) only made three of the game, and it was a dagger straight through the heart of the Thunder.  Instead of a gritty road win over a playoff team, the story was Westbrook’s late-game execution and the Thunder’s collapse.

The heartbreak of this loss was exasperated by the fact that it was E’Twaun Moore who did the Thunder in.  The fourth-year player had yet to hit double-digits in points in any of his 39 previous appearances this year, but against the Thunder, Moore went off for 19 points on 9-10 shooting.

Honorable mention: Facing that intimidating Ish Smith defense, Dion airballed another layup.  I guess he’s consistent.

dion airball

UP NEXT

  • Against the Los Angeles Clippers on March 11
  • Against the Minnesota Timberwolves on March 13
  • Against the Chicago Bulls on March 15
  • At the Dallas Mavericks on March 16

For random other musings from John, follow him on Twitter at @ajohnnapier.

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