No Russell Westbrook triple double and more important no win for the Oklahoma City Thunder as their key player failed to deliver in the clutch, while the Chicago Bulls got pulled to a 108-105 victory by E’Twaun Moore of all players, including the game winning 3-pointer.
Moore’s previous season high in points was nine. The 26-year old had quite a few DNP this season, usually being the third choice at shooting guard behind Jimmy Butler and Kirk Hinrich, while Tony Snell also gets minute at the position. But on big night he made the most of the chance given to him, playing 22 minutes and scoring 19 points while having his biggest game and moment so far in his short NBA career.
After Westbrook hit a long jumper to give the Thunder a three point lead (105-102), he made every possibly mistake to help the Bulls to a home win. Mirotic made two free throws to cap off an excellent performance with 26 points, followed by excellent defense on Westbrook who decided to take the tough mid-range jumper and not attack the basket, resulting in an air-ball. Westbrook lifted his mask, but it wasn’t bad eyesight that made him miss. It was simply a bad decision.
On the following play Westbrook made a no-no. He’s a great on-ball defender, but terrible when it comes to inbound players and chasing down players off screens. The Bulls inbounded a pass and Westbrook left Moore wide open in the corner. You never leave the corner man open in such a situation. Moore’s shot landed, giving the Bulls the 107-105 lead, and Westbrook followed that possession by stepping out of bounds instead of passing to someone open. Noah and Moore pressed him into the game-losing turnover.
He did finish with 43 points, 8 rebounds and 7 assists. It’s only the fourth time in NBA history that a player has had three straight games of 40-5-5, with the others being Michael Jordan, Elgin Baylor and Wilt Chamberlain. He scored 24 points on plays that didn’t include anyone else touching the ball. But it all started going in the wrong direction in the fourth quarter, but Westbrook wouldn’t change, wouldn’t trust his teammates and obviously, Scott Brooks had no influence on what was happening on the court. Nothing changes.
The numbers Westbrook is putting up over the last few games defy reason. He’s truly on a historic path in terms of statistics and numbers. For the most part, he’s also doing what’s best for the Thunder. But there’s no middle ground with Westbrook, especially not with Durant still out of the picture. It’s always going to be an all-in approach from the hottest player in the NBA right now, and sometimes, the Thunder are worse off when teams figure out how to make things a bit more difficult for him.
Just look at Moore’s defense on Westbrook in the final quarter. Westbrook did score 7 points in the final quarter, but made the crucial mistakes with the game on the line: The air-ball that gave the Bulls a possession off which they hit the game winning shot and stepping out of bounds under the pressure of a double team. He was limited to just 2-of-12 from the field with Moore guarding him compared to 7-of-13 against everyone else when it came to half court offense. Four of his five turnovers came when Moore was defending him.
And Moore, a player who was a second round, 55th overall pick in 2011, bouncing around the league, is turning out to be yet another filler who can be much more than just a substitute for the Chicago Bulls. His effort, his defense, and his quickly growing confidence can turn into another way Tom Thibodeau shuffles through his injured roster and actually helps out his team become stronger through their difficult situation, while winning himself another key player to count on for the future.