Oklahoma City guard Russell Westbrook says he won't change his style | NBA playoffs
Despite putting up solid numbers in Thursday's Game 2 loss in the NBA Finals, point guard Russell Westbrook of the Oklahoma City Thunder has come under a barrage of media-driven criticism for taking more shots than teammate Kevin Durant, a three-time league scoring champion.
MIAMI — Despite putting up solid numbers in Thursday's Game 2 loss in the NBA Finals, point guard Russell Westbrook of the Oklahoma City Thunder has come under a barrage of media-driven criticism for taking more shots than teammate Kevin Durant, a three-time league scoring champion.
The shots at Westbrook came from various directions after a 100-96 home loss to the Miami Heat, with perhaps the most cutting remark coming from ESPN analyst Magic Johnson — a legendary point guard for the Los Angeles Lakers.
Westbrook, more of a hybrid guard than a pure point guard, had 27 points on 10-of-26 shooting with eight rebounds, seven assists and two turnovers in Game 2.
"That was the worst point guard in a championship Finals I've ever seen," Johnson, a three-time Finals most valuable player, said during his halftime commentary. "He was too wild, he was taking off-balance shots. You gotta come out and set the tone with Kevin Durant."
On Saturday, a defiant Westbrook said, "I'm not making no adjustments. Regardless of what anybody says or regardless of what you guys say about how I play, it doesn't matter. I'm going to play my game.
"I'm going to go out and give 110 percent, and try to find a way to help us win the game."
The best-of-seven series is tied 1-1 and Game 3 is Sunday in Miami.
Durant, averaging 34 points on 57.1 percent shooting in the first two games, including 32 points on 12 of 22 in Game 2, discussed the criticism of Westbrook.
"It's not deserving at all because without him we wouldn't be here at this point, and people don't recognize that," Durant said. "Everybody thinks he should be a traditional point guard like a (John) Stockton or (Thunder assistant) Mo Cheeks.
"There's a lot of people that can't be like Russ, either. We need him to play the way he plays. Of course, he's going to make mistakes, and we're all going to make mistakes. You guys don't see how hard he works and how much he wants it. That's what I love about him. He doesn't care what people say, he's going to play his game and we need him to play his game, and we'll go from there."
With three of his starting five seemingly defense-oriented, Thunder coach Scott Brooks, an ex-point guard, knows he needs Westbrook to do more than distribute.
"We need Russell to score," Brooks said. "I know some of you don't like that, but Russell is a very, very gifted, talented player, and we would not be in this position without Russell. He got off to a bad start, but he came back. Without Russell in that second half, we don't cut the lead to two with a chance to tie at the end."
ESPN analyst Stephen A. Smith labeled Westbrook's Game 2 performance as "pathetic," but not all ESPN talking heads agreed.
"Ridiculous," said analyst Jalen Rose, a former NBA guard. "I've heard terms like selfish being used and that he's getting in the way of Durant's development.
"They're both 23 and Durant has led the league in scoring three straight years."
|Best-of-seven series between Thunder and Heat (all games on Ch. 4)|
|1||Oklahoma City 105-94|
|3 Sunday||Miami||5 p.m.|
|4 Tuesday||Miami||6 p.m.|
|5 Thursday||Miami||6 p.m.|
|6 x-June 24||Okla. City||5 p.m.|
|7 x-June 26||Okla. City||6 p.m.|