We’ve just got to take what is given. I was getting myself in trouble jumping in the air, trying to get the ball to other guys on the floor. I’ve got to stay in attack mode and read my first option and go with that. —OKC guard Russell Westbrook
SALT LAKE CITY — By now, the big question to be answered in the Utah-Oklahoma City series, is “What's up with Russell Westbrook?”
The man who is the NBA’s reigning MVP, who earlier this month became the first NBA player with back-to-back triple-double seasons, has not made his usual impact so far in the best-of-seven series, which the Jazz lead 2-1 after Saturday’s 115-102 victory.
After opening with a solid 29-point game in OKC’s Game 1 win over Utah, albeit on 10-of-25 shooting, Westbrook has been relatively quiet in the two Thunder losses, scoring 19 and 14, points, respectively, well under his season average of 25.4 ppg.
The guy who’s famous for his triple-doubles nearly came close to one Saturday with 11 rebounds and nine assists, but also nearly had an ignominious quadruple-double with eight turnovers on the night.
When asked about Utah’s defense on the pick and roll with Utah's Rudy Gobert waiting inside, Westbrook said it was no different than other defensive challenges he’s faced this year.
“We’ve just got to take what is given. I was getting myself in trouble jumping in the air, trying to get the ball to other guys on the floor. I’ve got to stay in attack mode and read my first option and go with that.”
Westbrook, who was seen getting some treatment on his upper body during the game, shrugged off any concerns about a physical problem, saying, “A lot of (expletive) going on in my body, but that’s everybody right now.”
Through three games, Westbrook is averaging 20.7 points on just 36.1 percent shooting and 27.3 percent from 3-point range, under his season averages of 44.9 and 29.8 percent, respectively. He’s been particularly passive in the fourth quarter, going scoreless in each of the last two games and not even attempting a field goal or free throw Saturday night.
OKC coach Billy Donovan said Westbrook seems “fine to me” physically and didn’t seem overly concerned when asked about his lack of production.
“I thought he did a really good job there in the first half of attacking the paint, making decisions and reads and getting to the rim,” Donovan said. “He didn’t have obviously a great shooting night, but the thing with him is he always plays hard and he gives you everything he has.”
Westbrook wasn’t available to media Sunday afternoon, but he left a parting shot at his Saturday night interview when asked about slowing down Utah’s Ricky Rubio, who has outplayed him in two straight games, with 26 points Saturday.
“He made some shots too comfortable,” he said. “I’m going to shut that (expletive) off next game, though. I guarantee that.”
When Carmelo Anthony was asked Sunday about Westbrook’s comments from the night before, he smiled.
“I’m all for it,” he said. “When you have someone who’s that focused, no matter what he said, he’s serious about it. When you have your leader taking that stance, then everybody else has to fall in line and do our part. We’ll be ready tomorrow.”
Anthony has also struggled offensively in the series, averaging 15.3 points on 41.5 percent shooting and 30 percent 3-point shooting, all below his season averages.
The most consistent Thunder player has been Paul George, who leads the team with a 25.7 ppg average in the series, including 48.4 percent from 3-point range.