In one of his best nights as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers, Russell Westbrook put a shorthanded team on his back against the Charlotte Hornets. Westbrook helped lead a 20-point comeback to make it a close game in the fourth quarter, finishing with 35 points, four rebounds, and five assists and 12-for-23 from the field.
Lakers head coach Frank Vogel didn’t have many options for lineups to pair Westbrook with, but Carmelo Anthony, Austin Reaves, and Talen Horton-Tucker all provided solid running mates. While the Lakers ultimately lost to the Hornets, Westbrook’s big night may have had positive future implications for L.A.
Vogel certainly sees it that way, as he believes this was the type of game the Lakers can build on when healthy.
“That’s going to be something that we can build on, honestly,” Vogel said of Westbrook. “When we see him do that in a Lakers uniform in our system with the way we’re screening for him. There’s lessons in every game and that’s one of them that we’ll take. He can carry the load if we’re getting downhill the way he was tonight.”
The Lakers head coach was asked if Westbrook was only able to play at that level because of the absences of LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
“I don’t know. It’s tough to say. We believe he can do that with those guys in there,” Vogel said. “I don’t think it’s that different for him. You’d have to ask him that, but I just think that.
“But I just think that knowing a lot of times he’s trying to set those guys up. There’s an element of that and of him being a team player and wanting to contribute to making their lives easier. It’s part of what he wants to come here and do, so for him to just be able to attack like that was just good for him to see that level of comfort in our system.”
On a personal level, Vogel is happy with the bond he’s built with Westbrook throughout a tumultuous season. “Honestly, it’s a good, healthy partnership. We’re in this together and it hasn’t been always perfect for us, but we all want the same thing, we all have a healthy level of respect for one another in terms of doing whatever it takes to get there.
“It’s a long season. I wouldn’t count this team out. I’m not saying that because of this game or anything like that but we have a belief in what we can be when all the pieces finally come together and have a chance to gel. We’ve seen it in different bursts, different situations with all of our three stars and with the role players as well.”\
“We just got to put it together. We got to make sure we win enough games to position ourselves down the stretch and hopefully get into the playoffs and have a chance to do some damage.”
Putting it together is something that the Lakers have been hoping to do all season long, but have never had extended opportunities to do so. Nights like Friday, even with the loss, signal some hope that perhaps L.A. has something figured out.
If they can get Westbrook going and keep him at a high level even when James and Davis return, it could lead to hugely beneficial results down the line. But as it’s been all season with the Lakers, consistency is key.
They’ll have another chance to show progress as a unit when they face the Atlanta Hawks on Sunday in the final game of their Grammy road trip.
Status updates on James and Davis
When the Lakers take the floor in Atlanta on Sunday, they will be without James for the third straight game, while Davis is viewed as questionable.
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