Russell Westbrook responded to the criticism of his defensive effort in the Los Angeles Lakers’ loss to the L.A. Clippers, hustling to make stops while struggling to knock down shots.
The Lakers suffered a disappointing six-point defeat, paying the price for their offensive shortcomings. L.A. shot just 35.1% from the field and made only nine 3s on 45 attempts (20%). Westbrook, Patrick Beverley and Kendrick Nunn had a particularly bad night on offense as they combined for 25 field goal attempts but converted only one of them.
Westbrook accounted for nearly half of those shots, going 0-for-11 on the night. But after the game, LeBron James said the 2017 NBA MVP should forget about his bad shooting night because of his revitalized defensive performance.
“Just flush it down the toilet and get ready for Sunday,” James said. “He’s a veteran. We’ve all had bad shooting nights. I’ve had bad shooting nights. Everybody in his league has had bad shooting nights. Who cares?
“He played a great game. Defensively he was in tune, he was locked in. He pushed the tempo. Just didn’t make any shots. And that’s okay. You have five steals. Two back-to-back in a critical time. In trying to post against Kawhi [Leonard]. He just didn’t make any shots, so that’s fine.”
Westbrook had five steals against the Clippers, a number he hasn’t registered since the 2018-19 season. Three of them came in within the last five minutes of the game, giving the Lakers an opportunity to come from behind for the third time and potentially win the game.
However, the shooting woes didn’t allow L.A. to complete the comeback. Westbrook’s first fourth-quarter steal came at 97-93 with 4:22 left on the clock; the Lakers managed to score just four points until the end of the game.
James emphasizes Lakers defense’s ability to generate offense
James has been vocal about the lack of shooting on the Lakers roster. However, the four-time NBA champion said the Purple and Gold can still give themselves a chance to win games if they make up for their offensive weaknesses with a strong defensive effort.
“There’ll be a game when we make multiple threes in a game. Multiple games. But if we’re relying on that every single game, then we’re in trouble,” he said.
“So I’m not worried about it or thinking about that. It’s how hard we play, how aggressive we play, how determined we are going to compete every night, and we’ve got to defend. When we defend, we’ll give ourselves a chance to win. And that’s a good ingredient to have.”
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