Thunder Writer: Westbrook Can Be A Liability

Erik Horne explained why the Thunder have struggled in their first-round playoff series against Portland – and Russell Westbrook has a lot to do with it

April 18, 2019 - 9:22 am
Russell Westbrook

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Russell Westbrook is perhaps the most dynamic, mesmerizing player in the NBA – and no one, Scott Ferrall would argue, plays harder than him on a nightly basis.

The Oklahoman Thunder writer Erik Horne agrees with that. Sort of.

“I think you can make a case for that on the offensive end,” Horne said on Ferrall on the Bench. “I think defensively he takes plays off. Look, a lot of these guys in the league take plays off. We’ve been crushing LeBron James for the past couple years for his defensive effort. I think (Westbrook) can be a defensive liability. I don’t question his will to win. I think he wants to win very badly. I think he inspires this team with his play, whether it’s rebounds, passing, penetration. He’s one of the hardest-playing guys in the league – particularly on the offensive end, but he leaves something to be desired on defense.”

That’s one reason why the Thunder are down 0-2 in their first-round playoff series against Portland. Damian Lillard scored a game-high 30 points in Game 1, and C.J. McCollum scored a game-high 33 points in Game 2.

Westbrook hasn’t been able to match that.

“Where he gets in trouble more than any place is when he’s frustrated with his offense – whether he’s not on with his shooting or he’s not getting the foul calls that he wants – and he lets that bleed into his defensive effort or he commits a foul that gets the Thunder closer to the bonus and then the other team is shooting free throws or he gets a technical,” Horne said. “When he can control his emotions on offense, I think he’s better defensively – but he can give something back on defense for sure.”

OKC has struggled mightily from distance, shooting 5-of-33 (15.2) percent from three in Game 1 and and 5-of-28 (17.9 percent) in Game 2. Westbrook, Jerami Grant, and Dennis Schroder are a combined 1-of-26 (3.8 percent) from deep.

“That’s not good enough,” Horne said. “They’re having success attacking Enes Kanter, but you can’t trade 2s for 3s. If they can’t stop Lillard and McCollum from being able to pull up from three the way they are, they’re going to have to take threes to stay in the game.”

Click below to listen to Horne’s interview in its entirety.