Since receiving heavy criticism for his early postseason play, Westbrook has scaled back his shot selection. He’s still attacking the rim in furious spurts, but seems to be more conscious of playmaking for others. He’s still taking his jumper, but only when open.
*Westbrook’s first five playoff games: 44-of-128 from the field and 7-of-38 from 3-point range.
*Westbrook’s past five playoff games: 48-of-87 from the field and 9-of-16 from 3-point range.
“I think it came with having Russ back on a consistent basis,” Butler said of Westbrook and the team regaining their rhythm, noting that the All-Star point guard is no longer resting back-to-backs or facing a minutes limitation.
And Westbrook’s revitalization seems to have played a role in Durant’s.
In Game 7 of the Memphis series, Westbrook’s table-setting got the previously struggling Durant back into rhythm. Up to that point, Durant was shooting 41 percent in the playoffs. But in that game, he went 12-of-18 from the field, with Westbrook assisting on eight of those field goals.
Ever since, the MVP has been rolling. And so have the Thunder, capping a dominant run with two backbreaking daggers by the superstars on Friday night.
With two minutes left, Westbrook stepped into a wide-open 3-pointer, turning a one-point Thunder lead to four by taking advantage of the Clippers’ hesitancy to guard him on the perimeter. Then moments later, Westbrook dropped it down to Durant in the post, who turned, fired and nailed a fadeaway dagger.
It was his 36th point. It was Westbrook’s 13th assist. And it was the final statement during this recent run of brilliance.
“That’s what the best duo in basketball does,” Butler said. “They pull through for you when you need it.”