The Los Angeles Lakers succumbed to the Oklahoma City Thunder for the second time in the absence of LeBron James — even despite Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook’s efforts to avenge last week’s loss to the Western Conference rivals.
Davis scored game-high 29 points and collected 18 rebounds, carrying L.A’s offense early in the game. Meanwhile, Westbrook chipped in 27 points, six rebounds and five assists, shooting an above-average 50% from behind the 3-point line.
Interestingly, Westbrook showed off a different type of skillset against the Thunder, capitalizing on the extra space rival defenders kept leaving him in the midrange. The 32-year-old guard called glass several times, noticeably opting for jumpers over his signature aggressive drives toward the basket.
“I just read the game,” Westbrook said of his offense postgame. “I can score, any level. I’m not really worried about getting to the paint every single time.”
Against Oklahoma City, the nine-time All-Star had to adjust his play again after an abdominal injury ruled out James for about a week. That came after the Lakers’ Big 3 registered its best game of the season with Davis, Westbrook and James each scoring at least 27 points in the recent victory over the Houston Rockets.
But the 2017 NBA MVP didn’t complain about L.A.’s injury woes and said his responsibility is to adapt to playing without the four-time NBA champion for however long his rehab takes.
“You can’t really do much about it,” Westbrook said. “You gotta figure it out for your best way to play for the team and figure out the best way to be able to be effective while on the floor.”
And he continued: “It’s interesting but you know, I’m a person that you just play the cards you’re dealt and so whatever it is, whatever that’s available, that’s we work with. We haven’t had our full team one time, not even close actually.
“You just gotta take whatever it is that we have and make the best out of it and compete to the best of our ability.”
Injuries have sidelined James for the second time this season while Trevor Ariza, Talen Horton-Tucker and Kendrick Nunn are yet to make their season debut due to health issues.
Wayne Ellington returned to the rotation after missing several games with a hamstring injury, which he picked up in the preseason.
James calls Westbrook NBA’s “most explosive point guard” in history
James has acknowledged Westbrook’s efforts to figure out how to use his talent to the Lakers’ benefit this season. Also, the 36-year-old superstar paid the All-Star guard a special compliment recently, calling him the “most explosive point guard in NBA history” alongside Derrick Rose.
James added L.A. needs Westbrook’s athleticism and that he was happy to see the 32-year-old finally “being himself” over the last few weeks.
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