Kevin Durant has been out in five consecutive games, as he injured his ankle in the second quarter of the game against the Golden State Warriors on 18th December. Since then, his superstar teammate has taken over. Russell Westbrook has been providing the energy and the scoring for his team, trying to lead them to a playoff spot in the Wild West.
In the five games that Durant has been absent, the Thunder have won three times and lost two. Westbrook has averaged 32.6 points and 8.0 assists in those matches, which means that he has not only scored but has involved his teammates at a high rate. Even though the electrifying guard was injured for a big part of the season, he hasn’t shown any signs of rust and has been able to score 25 points or more in the 11 games, which is the longest streak of his career. It is worth mentioning that Durant holds the record for consecutive 25 point games as he has done it 41 times in a row.
A big reason for success has been the shot selection – Westbrook has chosen better places for his attempts than lesson. In 2013-14, 27.1% of Russell’s field goal attempts were behind the three-point line, while in 2014-15, that number has fallen to 17.2%. This season, the guard has relied a lot more on close-range shots, as 41.4% of his attempts have come close to the basket (0-3 feet), compared to 33.1% from last year. In an interview, Westbrook even made a statement that he will try to avoid those three-point shots even more – “I need to stop taking as many as I’m taking, to tell you the truth, I’m going to take those down as the season goes along.It’s not always a great shot for myself or my team. So I’ve got to do a better job of taking those out. My advantage is attacking, regardless of who’s in front of me. That’s my advantage. And I’ve got to use my advantage to help my team and help myself.”
It will be very interesting to see how if he can really do that, because if he finds a way, that would really improve the whole play of the OKC Thunder. We all know that the shots for Westbrook will decrease when Durant comes back on the court, but if he can continue to improve his efficiency there won’t be any reason for his play to be criticized.
Photo by Keith Allison