Last night against the Nuggets, Russell Westbrook played along side one guy who dropped 51 and another guy who recorded a block party triple double and still managed to have his own game stand as an equal in its impressiveness. Finishing with a cool 40 points on 16-29 shooting (3-6 from 3-point range) along with 9 assists, 4 rebounds, and a block, Westbrook continues to stuff the stat box like no other. The big difference though from last night's performance compared to, for example, the 2/7 game against the Warriors, was that Westbrook only committed two turnovers on the night (none after halftime), did not pick up an offensive charge, and played under the kind of control that fully maximizes his talents. Even more important, this game hopefully helped Westbrook exorcise some of the bad memories from last season's Game Three against the Nuggets, a game that really served as the media's push-off point for their hyper-criticism of Westbrook.
Here is how Westbrook did his work last night:
When Westbrook stated that he had been working on his shot all summer long, he can hold out this game as proof that he means it. What I like about his jump shooting now is that, much like Steve Nash, Westbrook has charted out his favorite spots on the court. There are three spots all along the free throw line that he likes, along with an extended elbow 3-pointer that he has been making more consistently. He works hard to get to those shots and has shown greater discipline in foregoing other shots that are too far removed from these sweet spots.
From a mechanics standpoint, Westbrook's jumper looks so much more natural and fluid now versus a year ago. He doesn't over-elevate, shoots on his way up, bends his wrists, and releases the ball off of his fingertips, rather than snapping his shot off at the wrist. The effect is that his jumper arrives much softer at the rim and he is more likely to get the friendly bounce, a trait that was no more apparent than Westbrook's huge final 3-point shot of the night:
(I love the smile at the end)
Kevin Durant delivered the team to the overtime period, but Westbrook's shooting in the end was every bit as important. As you can see from the clip above, his two 16 foot jumpers were as clutch as they come, as they kept the Thunder in front of the Nuggets when it mattered most.
"People might talk about me getting 50, but Russell Westbrook carried us in overtime" - Durant