It took a team effort for the Los Angeles Lakers to overcome a late deficit and defeat the Utah Jazz on Wednesday night. What was already going to be a difficult game against one of the best teams in the West was made even tougher when Anthony Davis went down with injury. But behind LeBron James and Russell Westbrook, the Lakers didn’t fold down the stretch.
LeBron put on an absolute show in the fourth quarter while Westbrook knocked down the two free throws to ice the game and complete the comeback in the Lakers’ five-point win. But Westbrook’s presence wasn’t just felt during play as Frank Vogel noted his positive voice during breaks and timeouts being important as well.
“I thought Russell [Westbrook] was really good in the timeouts talking to the guys saying, ‘come on let’s go, keep fighting, keep fighting,’ and keeping everybody engaged,” Vogel said.
This was no accident as Westbrook admitted that this is something he wants to focus on moving forward.
“It’s difficult, but part of my job, I feel like one of my strengths is leadership and staying with it,” Westbrook said. “I like to make sure I do a better job during timeouts, regardless of what’s going on, regardless of what happened, staying positive, bringing positive energy and keeping our spirits moving in the right direction.”
This all contributed to the Lakers getting a much-needed win going into the All-Star break. The team had lost three straight games and could ill-afford a fourth straight. The Lakers were all behind each other in this victory which Westbrook was glad to see.
“It’s good, man. It’s great, especially when you win with a good [Jazz] team that’s been together for some time and it just shows we’re making growth throughout the game and we stuck with it, stuck with our principles and defended. Did a great job of having each other’s back for the entire game. It was good to see that from our group.”
This was the second straight game in which the Lakers looked like a much different team. The offense flowed much better and the energy on defense was visible from the beginning. This time the Lakers were able to close out the game and earn a win though, and Westbrook explained how they were able to do that down the stretch.
“We just stuck with it and defended. We defended at a great rate, they’re the No. 1 offense in the league and they scored 22 points in the fourth. We did a good job of getting stops on-demand and played with pact on the offensive end, which is great for us as well.”
There have been some positive strides made over the last couple of games for the Lakers and while the team still isn’t where they want to be, the effort has changed recently, which is a good step. Obviously the Davis injury throws a wrench into everything, but the Lakers as a whole look to be turning the corner.
Westbrook has taken his share of criticism this season, but he is committed to doing everything to help the Lakers succeed and that goes well beyond simply scoring points.
Westbrook has more clarity on how Lakers need him to play
What also may have helped Westbrook on the court is the recent practices the team has had. Westbrook admitted that he has gotten more clarity from Frank Vogel on how the Lakers need him to play and following the Lakers’ game against the Warriors, he noted that he believed it was a good start down that path.
“I’m just trying to do whatever was needed from me to help the team become better. It’s as simple as that,” Westbrook added. “Like AD mentioned, we had a good practice yesterday and ironed things out on kind of how we want to play moving forward. Tonight was a good kind of start to that.”
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