OKC Thunder's Russell Westbrook adding another weapon to arsenal: the 3-ball
There's a difference between a player who can shoot 3s and a 3-point shooter.
In the Thunder's case, it's the difference between Russell Westbrook and Daequan Cook.
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Cook's jumper is a repeated, rhythmic stroke. Westbrook's shooting motion looks a little off-beat.
Westbrook's jumper seems like it gets stuck in his hand rather than floating off the fingertips. The ball's rotation is at warp speed and 99.3 percent of the time the shot looks like it will fall short of the mark.
But when the ball rips through the net, Westbrook's defender instantly wears an expression that says, "Oh, no. How do I possibly defend this guy if he starts making 3s?"
Westbrook's teammates chuckle at the thought.
Cook: "It's going to be a long night. No way to stop him. Just do the best you can."
Backup guard Eric Maynor: "You can't do nothin'. There's no way you can stop him."
Coach Scott Brooks: "Good luck."
A 22-year-old budding superstar considered the fastest player in the league when in attack mode, Westbrook now has added the occasional 3-ball to his arsenal and opponents are starting to be victimized.
Ask Utah, where Westbrook went 4 for 4 beyond the arc on Feb. 5; or Boston, where he was 2 for 3 on Nov. 19; or New Orleans, against which he went 4 for 6 in back-to-back games; or Portland, which just got torched by a 4-for-5 performance last Sunday night.
No matter what form the jumper is shot, all that matters is if it falls. For Westbrook, 3-pointers have been falling at a higher success rate lately. In March, he shot 47.8 percent from 3-point range and the Thunder assembled a franchise-record 14-2 mark.
The Thunder and Portland play Friday at 9 p.m. in the Rose Garden. Westbrook has scorched the Trail Blazers this season for 30.7 points, 8.3 rebounds, 6.3 assists and 1.7 steals in three victories.
In the first game against Portland, Westbrook went 0 for 5 from 3-point range. Since then, he's gone 5 for 6 against the Blazers.
Shooting 35.0 percent from 3-point range is considered the line of demarcation for acceptability among point guards, which is the neighborhood where Westbrook currently stands.
After starting the season 1 for 12 (.083) beyond the arc, Westbrook is now shooting 34.8 percent.
Perhaps most impressive about Westbrook's 3-point shot is that he shoots it sparingly. He has taken just 89 attempts in 74 games – an average of 1.2 per contest – highly commendable for a point guard in possession of the ball as much as Westbrook.
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