Anthony: Westbrook Not As Explosive As He Has Been

Russell Westbrook is struggling against Portland – for several reasons

The DA Show
April 18, 2019 - 2:10 pm

Since Kevin Durant left Oklahoma City for Golden State, the Thunder are 3-10 in the playoffs. They trail Portland 0-2 in their first-round series, and Russell Westbrook is shooting just 13-of-37 (35.1 percent) in the postseason.

Why has Westbrook been so dynamic in the regular season, yet so limited in the playoffs?

“A couple things happened,” NBA TV and NBA on TNT analyst Greg Anthony said on The DA Show. “One, he’s losing trust in his guys – outside of Paul George – and I think when that happens, you start getting back to playing a little bit of hero ball. I think that’s an issue. The reality is, too, he’s still as relentless as ever, but I don’t know that I would say he’s as explosive as he’s been in the past, and he doesn’t have the confidence in his jump-shot.”

Westbrook is 1-of-10 from three against Portland.

“His jump-shot has basically left him, and when you get in the postseason, you’re going to play against teams that are prepared for you,” Anthony said. “They know your tendencies, they know all your schemes, they know what you do well, what you don’t do well, and if they scheme it right, they can force you to be more reliant on others areas of your game – and that’s something that’s happened.”

The Trail Blazers, meanwhile, have shot 42.1 percent from three through two games, as Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum are averaging 29.5 and 28.5 points, respectively.

“Portland has been terrific offensively,” Anthony said. “They’ve shot the three well, McCollum and Lillard have both been brilliant, and they’ve also taken care of the ball. One of the great strengths of this OKC team is their ability to turn you over and get out in transition. That means they’re limiting your opportunities in the open floor and forcing you to have to play 5-on-5. That’s a struggle. That’s not the strength of this OKC team.”

While Westbrook hasn’t won a playoff series since Durant left, blaming him – and only him – misses the mark.

“People are going to put it all on Russ, but in reality they don’t have a lot of options outside of Paul George and Westbrook offensively,” Anthony said. “Steven Adams is a complementary scorer. His points come off what you create for him, and the problem with the rest of that roster – outside of (Dennis) Schroder – they don’t have guys that can score against great defense. 

“That’s typically what you’re going to see a lot of in the postseason,” Anthony continued. “Your stats aren’t based on you getting to play against bottom feeders for half the season. You’re only playing against the best teams, and it’s harder to score. They can take away those complementary players and that’s what’s happening in this series. It’s really about what can Paul and Westbrook do offensively – and obviously Westbrook has had his struggles.”

Portland, Anthony reminded listeners, is also playing “inspired” after what happened last year.

“This is a team that got embarrassed last year in the postseason. They got swept by New Orleans,” he said. “They’ve been thinking about that since that day, and they have responded in kind.”