Want to know the reason why Russell Westbrook misses so many layups?
“Because he’s terrible,” Kevin Durant said, joking of course.
Durant then turned serious.
“Nah, I mean, you know what, I think, to be honest, Russ goes to the lane so fast and sometimes he doesn’t expect himself to be wide open,” Durant said. “And he goes so fast and sometimes he misses.”
Botched bunnies have been a contributing factor to Westbrook’s season-long slump shooting the ball. Entering tonight’s game against Phoenix, the Thunder point guard is shooting just 40.3 percent from the field. It’s his lowest connection rate since making only 39.8 percent of his shots as a rookie.
Westbrook said he felt as comfortable as he has all season during Saturday’s 30-point win at Houston, where he made 11 of 22 shots for a game-high 28 points. He added that he’s now aiming to string together two good games.
Durant said he noticed a difference in Westbrook, too.
“I did,” Durant said. “Last game he was very efficient shooting shots. He missed a few. But he shot all good shots. Me and him always talk about cutting down on that fast break pull-up jump shot. And I think last game he had a couple of opportunities where he could have shot that one and it would have been a great shot. So he’s looking to pass that shot up a little bit more.
“You can tell he’s working on his game and trying to be more and more efficient. And last game he was just great for us driving the basketball and shooting. Teams go under on the pick-and-roll and he was hitting the 3. So they got to respect him. He just did it all for us.”
Westbrook has off-set his shooting woes with all-around production that you can’t find out of many other point guards, if any. He’s averaging a career high in rebounds (5.2), assists (8.7) and steals (2.1) while also turning it over less than he has on average in the past two seasons.
Finishing better at the rim, Durant said, will come.
“Sometimes it’s just a matter of him slowing down,” Durant said. “But he’s getting in there. (He’s got) less charges. I think that’s a good thing. And he’s making more highlight plays. He’s having a really good year scoring the basketball for us and passing the basketball for us. So once he gets in that lane it’s so many options.”
Durant and his teammates like to crack on Westbrook for his point-blank misses. But Durant also knows that at any given moment, Westbrook can make everyone jump out of their seat when he finishes strong. It’s a trait Westbrook has that Durant wasted little time in reminding everyone of Monday morning.
“The majority of the time, for however many layups he misses he probably got as many thunderous dunks or and-ones,” Durant said. “So he’s going to the rim and drawing a lot of attention. I wish he’d make a few more layups. But he’s done a great job of finishing for us.”