Of course he wants to play better; I want to play better, too. —Ricky Rubio
SALT LAKE CITY — During today’s digital era with social media, it’s hard for NBA players to miss out on any bold declarations or highlight plays around the league.
Hate it or love it, these things are right at your fingertips.
So, when Oklahoma City Thunder star Russell Westbrook ended Saturday’s press conference with his bold statement, Utah Jazz guard Ricky Rubio was certainly aware of the comments.
“He made some shots,” Westbrook said of Rubio. “Too comfortable, but I’ma shut that (expletive) off next game, though. Guarantee that.”
However, the Spanish floor general is focused on the team for Game 4, not any individual matchups with the reigning MVP. Tonight’s game is set for 8:30 p.m. on TNT.
“He makes a big deal,” Rubio said. “Of course, they lost Game 2 and Game 3, of course they’re going to come ready, not just him, we expect the whole team to come ready back and be physical, and we’re going to keep doing what we’re doing in the last couple games. We made adjustments and go for the game.”
Rubio logged the franchise’s first playoff triple-double since 2001 in Saturday’s 115-102 win against OKC with 26 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists while Westbrook struggled with eight turnovers while shooting 5 for-17 from the field to end with 14 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists.
“You’re taking this too personal,” Rubio told reporters during Monday’s shootaround. “Of course he wants to play better; I want to play better, too.”
Westbrook’s promise didn’t necessarily rub Jazz players the wrong way. Knowing the type of competitor he is, guys wouldn’t expect anything less.
“We’re aware but what else is he supposed to say, you know?” said Jazz forward Jonas Jerebko.
“The biggest thing that I respect about Russ is the competitive nature,” rookie guard Donovan Mitchell added. “Ricky played amazing last game so the competitor in anybody will be like I want to go after him the next game and that’s just how this league is but we’re ready for it.”
Jazz center Rudy Gobert said he didn’t know about the comments, but can certainly relate if he was in a similar situation with his back against the wall. Through the first three games, OKC trails Utah 2-1 in the series and Westbrook is struggling to crack the Jazz’s defense.
The seven-time All-Star continues to average a triple-double with 20.7 points, 11.0 rebounds and 10.0 assists but is logging numbers inefficiently while shooting 36.1 percent from the field with 5.3 turnovers per game.
“When you lose it’s always frustrating,” Gobert said. “When I lose a game, I’m frustrated and probably try to react the next game, but we just have to keep focusing on us and keep doing what we’re doing as a team.”