Russell Westbrook has emerged as one of the Los Angeles Lakers’ leaders in recent weeks, playing a major role behind the team’s improved performance.
Westbrook made adjustments to his game, focusing on utilizing his pace and strength to exert pressure on rivals in the paint. The 2017 NBA MVP has also seemed to have figured out how to complement LeBron James and Anthony Davis as L.A.’s Big 3 has showed much better chemistry on the floor over the last few games.
James, Davis, and Westbrook took turns in orchestrating the Lakers’ play in the recent victory over the Boston Celtics, one of the team’s best games of the season. The former ended the night with 30 points and the other two All-Stars each recorded a double-double.
“I think in the beginning of the year, Russ was a little bit passive,” Davis said of Westbrook after the Tuesday win over Boston.
“He was trying to get guys involved, pass the ball. He’d be at the rim and he had one tonight where he tried to kick out to Melo where he could’ve laid the ball up. So we’ve just been trying to tell him to be himself, don’t try to be anybody else.
On Tuesday, Westbrook’s moment came after halftime — which has been a theme recently. The 33-year-old guard scored 15 points in the third quarter, inspiring the Lakers’ yet another second-half push after weeks of struggles in that period earlier in the season.
Westbrook exuded high energy during these outbursts, which then spread among the Lakers and led to a greater intensity in their game. Davis said the guard needs to keep his “attack mode” on when in play, claiming that only then he can be the best version of himself.
“The more you’re aggressive, the more it will it open up for everybody else,” Davis said.
“As of late, the last 7-10 games, he’s been very very aggressive and when he does that, it opens up the floor for everyone else as far as shooting. So he’s just been in attack mode. You saw tonight, he went on a stretch in the third quarter where he just went downhill and finished and that’s what you got to do.
“Before every game, I tell him to be himself and that’s why we brought him here. To be Russell Westbrook, not anybody else but that.”
Westbrook felt responsible to fix Lakers’ third-quarter woes
Westbrook said he took notice of the Lakers’ persistently lukewarm effort in the third quarter of early-season games — and then made it his goal to fix the lingering issue.
“Definitely. I think as a player, and especially as a point guard, my job is to make sure our team is ready to go,” he said.
“And when we’re not, I take that responsibility on myself, just watching film and figure out how I can not let us low to sleep and make sure that I keep my energy flowing in the right direction and my teammates can follow.”
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