Despite that little voice inside of him telling him to shoot the ball, Russell Westbrook did the right thing and kicked it out to Anthony Morrow in a key moment for the Oklahoma City Thunder in their 109-100 win over the Chicago Bulls.
Westbrook scored 36 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and dished out six assists in another part of his tour de force that comes as Spring encroaches on the NBA season, which means that the playoffs are rather close. He was held to just two points in the first quarter which simply made him pick up the pace in the following three. The Bulls were able to hang on most of the way, getting 27 points from Nikola Mirotic and 20 from Pau Gasol, but their defense couldn’t contain Westbrook in the fourth quarter or handle the offensive rebounding of Enes Kanter and Steven Adams, combining for 15 just on their own.
There’s no secret as to why Russell Westbrook is putting up such incredible numbers. He has the highest usage ratings in the NBA by miles because of the absence of Kevin Durant. Obviously, you need to have the talent to turn those possessions into triple doubles on a nightly basis, this time settling for just a double double, but most stars in this league are going to have more impressive statistical lines if they had so much access to the ball as Westbrook has on the Thunder’s offense.
But Westbrook giving up on a shot made the difference in the win over the Bulls. He botched things up in the loss in Chicago by taking a bad shot and then turning the ball over on the team’s final two possessions. This time, with the Thunder up 99-95 and his drive to the basket creating open shots for more than just one player, Westbrook did what he has been promising for a very long time. To trust one of his teammates.
Anthony Morrow is an above 40% shooter from beyond the arc, and there’s no reason not to give him the ball when he’s open, even if it’s late in the game and the NBA tradition dictates that the star of the team take it upon himself to try and win the game. Things are changing, and so can Russell Westbrook, who develops slowly when it comes to actually giving up on the shot. The man loves to win, and even loves it more when it’s by his own hands.
The Thunder shouldn’t be too impressed or proud with this win; the Bulls are a sinking stone right now with so many key players out with injuries. Not that the Thunder are in full force, but as good as Kevin Durant can be, the absences of Rose, Butler and Gibson combined are a bigger problem for a team that doesn’t base its entire offensive system on one player and his athletic ability. The Thunder are back in the top 8 of the West, but they’re going to need more of Westbrook giving up on shots to hold off the Pelicans.