Rockets' Westbrook is having arguably best stretch of his career
Russell Westbrook has so much space.
With the Houston Rockets opting for small ball and shooters on the perimeter, Westbrook has plenty of room to drive -- maybe more than he's ever had.
And as one of the NBA's best rim attackers, Westbrook is in the midst of perhaps the best stretch of his career because of the space the Rockets' offense creates.
According to StatMuse, Westbrook has scored 20-plus points in 36 games. The span dates back to Dec. 7, 2019, when he scored 24 points in the Rockets' win against the Phoenix Suns. During this stretch, Westbrook has had four 40-point games and three triple-doubles.
During this time frame, he's scored 30.7 points per game, grabbed 8.1 rebounds per game, dished 6.9 assists and shot 50.5% from the field.
The trend really isn't surprising, for Westbrook has always been capable of this. It's just that now he's on a team where his talents can be maximized.
The Rockets have dedicated themselves to playing a heightened version of what they already do: shoot 3-pointers into oblivion.
But in their first two seeding games, their plethora of 3-pointers hasn't hindered success. They defeated the Dallas Mavericks on Friday in an offensive showdown, and with quality defense, they defeated the Milwaukee Bucks on Sunday.
During the win against the Bucks, they shot a season-high 61 threes and made 21 of them. According to Basketball Reference, Houston is 16-1 when they make 19 or more 3-pointers.
Westbrook was at the center of both wins, scoring 31 points in each game. He also dished eight assists in both.
As one of the best playmakers in the league, Westbrook has essentially reached basketball fulfillment in Houston. He's the only player besides Oscar Robertson to average a triple-double for a season, and that's his foundation.
But this season Westbrook has had some of his easiest shots, and that's in large part because of shooters like Austin Rivers, Robert Covington, P.J. Tucker, Ben McLemore and Danuel House.
The video below is a good example of how Westbrook has benefited from Houston's spacing. As Westbrook passed to Tucker, he then cut to the wing.
James Harden was near the top of the arc, and Giannis Antetokounmpo didn't fully commit onto Westbrook. House was in the corner. Westbrook simply had a one-on-one matchup against Marvin Williams, and it was easy for him to get to the rim.
Westbrook is having his best season for efficiency, as he's shooting a career-high 47.3% from the field. His midrange jumper has been at near its best, too. According to NBA.com stats, Westbrook has shot 41.5% from the midrange this season; that's the third-highest average of his career.
The Rockets jumped to the fourth seed in the West after beating the Bucks, and they showed they can hang with any contender. Harden is an ultra scorer, so it's hard to think of Houston winning anything if he doesn't ball out.
But if Westbrook continues to play like he has, it's also hard to count the Rockets out of the title race.