The Lakers slept-walked through most of Sunday’s 113-107 loss in Miami. Los Angeles finally woke up in the fourth. Guard Russell Westbrook definitely heard the alarm go off. In less than eight minutes on the floor in the fourth, Westbrook recorded nine points, two assists, and four rebounds.
Los Angeles won the quarter 37-24, but unfortunately, it wasn't enough to win the game.
Westbroook’s performance in crunch time on Sunday was in stark contrast to his benching by head coach Frank Vogel earlier in the week. Russ did not play in the final four minutes of the Lakers 111-104 home loss to the Pacers.
When asked for his thoughts on Westbrook’s impact on the fourth quarter comeback against the Heat, Vogel had this to say:
“…he’s one of the great competitors in the game. The competitive spirit showed up during that comeback.”
Spirit alone will not get Westbrook back on track. In his last seven games, Westbrook is shooting 36.2% from the floor and a paltry 27.3% from the three. After a 2-for-14 game in Sacramento, a disheartened Russ proclaimed “ I can’t make a f——- shot.”.
Vogel believes the key for improving Westbrook’s offensive productivity is maximizing shot opportunities close to the rim.
“We want to continue to encourage him to continue to attack the basket as much as possible. He makes great decisions when he gets there in terms of whether he has a finish or a second-side three.”
That’s become harder and harder, even for the uber-athletic Westbrook. Teams have coaches too. They’re well aware of Westbrooks shooting struggles. Opposing team defenses simply play off Westbrook to minimize his ability to drive.
This season, only 34.4% of Westbrooks shot attempts are within 0-3 feet of the basket. That’s the lowest percentage since his 2014-2015 season according to Basketball Reference.
Both Westbrook and Vogel are betting on Russ’s competitive drive to result in more drives.