The 2021-22 season has been a revolving door of injuries for the Los Angeles Lakers. Russell Westbrook is the only Lakers player to have not yet missed a game, while Carmelo Anthony has been one of the most available players having only missed three contests.
On Friday against the Charlotte Hornets, the Lakers were extremely shorthanded, missing LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Malik Monk, and as always, Kendrick Nunn. With nearly all of their main firepower out of the lineup, Westbrook stepped up with one of his best games of the season despite a 117-114 loss.
Anthony felt Westbrook’s performance and the fight of the entire team were the main takeaways in a shorthanded loss. “Excluding those two guys (LeBron James and Anthony Davis), I thought we did a great job of just staying within the game. Fighting back, clawing back. Not giving up, not just settling and saying we down 15-20.
“Pick our pace up to match their intensity. That second half, coming out of halftime was when we kind of found a grove. Russ got it going. It was just a different energy, different effort out there. So you can’t ask for nothing more than that, especially when you’re lacking guys and players out there.”
Anthony described each game as an adjustment when discussing how Westbrook’s performance could carry into games with James and Davis in the lineup. “It’s a balance. When you have AD, LeBron, Russ and myself. It’s a balance for when he has the ball in his hands. When to attack, when not to attack. Sometimes LeBron has the ball in his hands. Obviously, we play through AD out there.
“Again, it’s an adjustment. Each game is an adjustment. It’s not like we come into the game with the same game plan. Each game is an adjustment.”
The Lakers forward continued to praise Westbrook for adjusting to the needs of the team. “We haven’t seen it this year. Again, It’s something that we all have to adapt to. He’s adapting to it tonight. Tonight, with guys out, he stepped up and played that type of game. Tonight calls for him to play that type of way and as you can see, he did a great job of getting us back. Finding himself, finding his shot.
“We talk basketball every single day. Russ, myself, LeBron and AD. We sit there, we watch the film on the plane. We watch the game. We talk about different things and how to figure it out and I think tonight with LeBron and AD being out, in this type of game the way that Russ was aggressive from certain spots on the court, I think they saw something. We all did!”
The Lakers certainly are hopeful that a vintage performance from Westbrook can be a turning point for his game when James and David are healthy. If the three can begin to click alongside one another, it drastically changes their outlook this season.
For Anthony, he’s viewing the season as one long adjustment. Perhaps the entire team can adopt that mindset until the Lakers are healthy enough to search for consistency.
Westbrook explains 3-point attempt at end of Hornets loss
Down two with the game winding down, Westbrook opted to go for a game-winning three as opposed to a game-tying two. He explained the decision after the game. “I was trying to drive and Bridges kind of cut me off and then it was either win or go home. Felt like I was in good rhythm, I’ll live with it. I was on target but just a little short, I’ll take it.”
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