Any NBA player who has played into their mid-30s can recall a moment or a set of events that made them realize they were no longer the same player. There are several moments that Russell Westbrook could point to in his first season with the Los Angeles Lakers to come to that same conclusion.
However, on Friday night against the Charlotte Hornets, Westbrook turned back the clock when the team needed him most. With Anthony Davis, LeBron James, and Malik Monk out of the lineup, Westbrook was dominant in the second half. He finished the game with 35 points, four rebounds, five assists, and just one turnover.
It was perhaps his best game as a Laker, even if it did end with a loss. Westbrook’s performance was almost enough to bring the team back from a 20-point deficit, and it did wonders for the Lakers’ point guard’s mindset moving forward.
“It’s something that when the team needs me to do it, I’m able to still do it,” Westbrook said. “That’s the most important part.
“The unfortunate part is that we didn’t win the game, but with my teammates and those guys giving me confidence to be aggressive and make the right reads, it was good to kind of get that going.”
Now that Westbrook was able to assert himself in a game without James and Davis, the hope is he can continue that level of play with his two co-stars in the lineup. “Yeah, that is the part that we are trying to figure out,” Westbrook said of playing with James and Davis.
“I think ultimately when myself and AD and Bron are on the court, we got to be able to figure it out to where I can still keep my same speed and pace to the basket and allow it to make the game easy for them and it’s something that we basically talked about after the game about positioning and kind of things they saw tonight sitting on the bench to be able to help them out. So hopefully as we kind of move forward through this season, we can put some games together that we like the way we’re playing.”
It’s unfortunate that James, Westbrook, and Davis have barely had any time to play together, as them figuring things out would be huge for a Lakers team slowly falling out of the postseason picture. As it stands, they are in the No. 9 seed and are four games back of the No. 6 seed they would need to avoid the Play-In Tournament.
If the three co-stars are going to figure something out, it needs to be sooner rather than later. If they continue to slide due to injuries and a lack of consistency, they’ll eventually run out of time to make noise in the Western Conference.
Westbrook proud of Lakers fight after bad 76ers loss
Westbrook was very complimentary of his teammates — especially those that played out of necessity against the Hornets — for responding well after a tough loss to the Philadelphia 76ers.
“Yeah, yesterday was a tough loss just overall. And you can do one of two things as a team, you can wake up and feel sorry and come out and get hit in the mouth, which we did get hit in the mouth.
“Or you can stay together throughout, whatever that may be, and I thought tonight was a good sign of character for our group. Some guys who haven’t played, DJ, Baze, even TA, just hasn’t been in the rotation, but were ready to go tonight., They did a good job of playing and playing hard, that’s all you can ask for.”
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