Russell Westbrook erupted for 33 points in the 125-121 victory over the San Antonio Spurs, showing why the Los Angeles Lakers pulled the trigger on the blockbuster trade that brought the guard to L.A.
In the absence of LeBron James, Westbrook showed his usual athleticism, but also impressed with focus and ball security. The 32-year-old guard added 10 rebounds to his stat line and came up just two assists short of a triple-double — while turning the ball over only three times in 40 minutes on the floor.
Westbrook said after the game that he took his time when attempting a shot against the Spurs, a change from the previous three outings when he thought he had rushed around the basket too much. As a result, the 32-year-old guard showed a version of himself that head coach Frank Vogel and his staff had hoped to see upon his arrival in L.A.
“A ton of confidence and that’s why we felt great about this move,” Vogel said, summing up Westbrook’s performance.
“Last year, we lost Bron and AD for a long stretch and we didn’t have enough to sustain throughout the regular season and to win in the playoffs and to get a guy like Russ, if one of those guys is down, we got another guy that can put up a monster night like we saw tonight paying early dividends in acquiring Russell.”
Vogel noticed that Westbrook slowed his game down on Tuesday, particularly while driving into the paint. That translated into reducing the nine-time All-Star’s carelessness with the ball, which the coach thought was key to his performance and the team’s win in general.
“To play 39 minutes with only three turnovers is a hell of a night with ball security,” Vogel said. “So big step for him and big reason for the win.”
And he added: “Every time he’s in a Laker uniform with this group in our system, he just gets a chance to get more familiar. Obviously, he was terrific, especially down the stretch. … And really orchestrated the offense down the stretch.
“He had some great plays throughout the game with AD and with our bigs. Lobbing the ball to the basket.”
Vogel also expressed confidence Westbrook can maintain a similar level of play after James returns from his ankle injury, reiterating that the guard will become more and more comfortable with the Lakers’ basketball with each game he’s played for the team.
Davis tells Westbrook to “be yourself” every night
Even though Westbrook’s best game in a Lakers jersey coincided with James watching the game from the bench, Davis — who scored game-high 35 points — also believes the guard can put on a similar show for the Lakers on a regular basis. All he needs, the 28-year-old All-Star claims, is to “stay himself” even if a part of the team’s Big 3 isn’t around.
“Just consciously, Big 3 and one is out, so the other two have to pick kind of pick up that slack,” Davis said.
“But we never said alright, ‘tonight is on me’ or ‘Russ it’s on you tonight.’ Team never said it, just something that just kind of happens. But I told Russ, I said, whether I play, Bron plays or we don’t play, it doesn’t matter. You still got to be yourself and he did that tonight.
“The way he played tonight was incredible and we need that from him every night, no matter if Bron is playing or not, or if I’m playing or not. Be yourself and we’ll find ways to kind of adjust around him.”
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