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The good and bad of Westbrook’s return

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Westbrook made his debut in the Thunder’s loss to the Kings. How did he do following his knee surgery?

NBA: Sacramento Kings at Oklahoma City Thunder Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

After missing the first two games of the regular season, Russell Westbrook made his return to the Thunder for their home opener against the Sacramento Kings. Unfortunately, for Westbrook and the Thunder, his return wasn’t enough, as the Thunder fell to the Kings 131-120.

The Good

Coming off a knee injury that kept Westbrook out for the first two games and the entire preseason, some rust was expected. However, there appeared to be no signs of rust in Westbrook’s play Sunday night.

Westbrook’s final statline looked almost identical to what he’s been averaging for the last two seasons. Against Sacramento he finished with 32 points, 12 rebounds and 8 assists. Even the Thunder’s color commentator Michael Cage repeatedly said during the broadcast that Westbrook looked in mid-season form.

“Maybe he did play in preseason is all I’m saying, this is not a I didn’t play in preseason Russell Westbrook, this is mid season form.” said Cage.

Another thing that looked good in Westbrook’s return was how Westbrook and Paul George played off one another. Nowhere was this more evident than their play in the first quarter.

On the Thunder’s very first possession of the game, Westbrook kicked out to George who knocked down a three. Later in the quarter, Westbrook threw an alley-oop to George. Even though it’s just a one game sample, George and Westbrook’s chemistry seems to be headed in the right direction. Both will have to be in sync at all times in order to carry the scoring load for this team.

The Bad

On the downside, Westbrook picked up where he left off last season with ball control, turning the ball over 5 times versus the Kings. Last year Westbrook led the league in total turnovers and turnovers per game. In year 10 of his NBA career, Westbrook must find a way to limit his turnovers.

Although Westbrook scored over 30 points in his return, he was inefficient in some areas of his scoring. Westbrook shot 1-6 from the three point line with his lone three pointer coming in the first quarter. This offseason it was reported Westbrook was focusing on improving his three point shot, but that work didn’t show itself in his first game back. Westbrook must improve his outside shot if he wants to provide the Thunder with the shooting and spacing they need.

Furthermore, Westbrook shot poor from the free throw line. He was great attacking the rim and drawing foul calls, yet he didn’t capitalize when he got to the line. Westbrook, who is a career 81% free throw shooter, only shot 5-11 from the line Sunday night, continuing a puzzling trend from a year ago, where he saw his career 81% free throw shooting mark fall to 73.7%.

Westbrook’s impact was felt immediately in his season debut. But if you asked Westbrook, it was probably an unsuccessful night, since the team did lose. Nonetheless, the good news for Thunder fans is that their franchise player is back healthy and looks primed for another MVP caliber season.


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