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Monday, May 21, 2018

Kevin Durant Defends Russell Westbrook’s Shot Selection After Game 4

The Oklahoma City Thunder missed an opportunity to sweep the Denver Nuggets when they lost Monday evening in Game 4 104-101. OKC was actually down by 10 with under three minutes to play yet they were able to make it a one-possession game in the final minute. Unfortunately they were unable to tie the game or take the lead because Russell Westbrook missed three three pointers (including a buzzer-beating heave at the end of the game).

Not only did Westbrook’s shot selection appear questionable because of his poor results, but also because he didn’t defer to the team’s perceived leader and franchise player, Kevin Durant. Durant happened to be nearly flawless from three-point range in the game, going 5-for-6.

Folks on twitter were killing Westbrook for not deferring to Durant while the TNT analysts called him out for trying to be the hero. After the game though, Durant had Westbrook’s back.

“We got some good looks, Russell got some good looks … he shot the three it rimmed out,” Durant said about the game’s ending.

He was then asked some tough questions by the media where he could have called out his teammate, but he refused to take the bait.

When asked if he thought the Nuggets did a good job keeping the ball out of his hands, Durant said “We still got the ball, I think we made the right passes.”

Next Durant was asked if there was anything better the Thunder could have done on their final possession where Westbrook tried to bank in a three from about 30 feet away.

“Not really,” Durant said. “Maybe if he would have dribble-handoffed to me … and maybe they would have doubled and I wouldn’t have shot a good shot. Russ got a good look and it looked like it was going in from the side where I was but unfortunately it didn’t. We got three good looks actually, to tie it up, to go up one, and at the end of regulation.”

Since Westbrook was the only other player to attempt shots for the Thunder in the final minute, it sounds to reason Durant was talking about him when he mentioned the three good looks. Honestly, even though the results were poor, I have to agree.

When Westbrook took the final shot he only had 3.5 seconds to bring the ball up court. It would have been extremely difficult to find someone who would have had a better look in that short amount of time. Then on his airball with just under 10 seconds left, everyone else was well covered and he actually had a good look. He just missed terribly. And it was smart to shoot quickly so they’d have a chance to rebound a miss and set up for another shot.

Look, Oklahoma City is still up 3-1 in the series and headed back home, so they should close things out. Should Westbrook try to find Durant more when KD is hot? Definitely. But the bottom line is that Durant stuck up for his teammate publicly even if he was fuming inside, and that’s what a good franchise leader does.

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