We’re not backing down, but at the same time we know we have to be ready for a fight and respond. —Ricky Rubio
SALT LAKE CITY — When Russell Westbrook strolled into the interview room at Vivint Arena on Monday night, his energy was much different than it was 48 hours earlier.
The Oklahoma City All-Star guard was much more humble as he addressed the media this time in a loose tie, unbuttoned top and blazer with designer frames in between Paul George and Carmelo Anthony.
For the third consecutive postseason game, Westbrook and the Thunder suffered an L.
So, two days after vowing to shut down Jazz guard Ricky Rubio he had to eat those words with OKC falling behind the Utah Jazz 3-1 in the series, after a 113-96 loss.
“It’s not about me or him, let’s get past that,” Westbrook said of Rubio. “We’re done with that.”
That wasn’t the case after Game 3, though, when Westbrook took a direct shot at Rubio following his triple-double performance.
“He made some shots,” Westbrook previously said of Rubio. “Too comfortable, but I’ma shut that (expletive) off next game, though. Guarantee that.”
Still, even in victory, the Jazz refused to go back at Westbrook through the media during their time in the spotlight.
Despite shooting 4 for 12, Rubio finished right around his average with 13 points, eight assists and six rebounds while still finding ways to impact the game. In addition, he became the first Jazzman since Karl Malone to score at least 12 points, five rebounds and five assists in four games of a playoff series since 1996.
Meanwhile, Westbrook went 7 for 18 from the field with five turnovers largely because of leading defensive player of the year candidate Rudy Gobert clogging up the paint.
“I’m just trying to protect the basket,” Gobert said. “He’s a guy that’s one of the best in the league at getting to the rim. When you run back, talk to your teammates and protect the rim, it’s got to be precision. That’s the only thing I am trying to do. Make them think and make them take the tougher decision.”
Westbrook logged 23 points, 14 rebounds and three assists in Game 4, but it wasn’t easy as he also picked up four fouls in the first half with overly aggressive defense on Rubio. For the series, Westbrook is averaging 21.3 points, 11.8 rebounds and 8.3 assists with 5.3 turnovers per game while shooting 36.7 percent from the field. OKC is shooting just 43.6 percent as a team in the series, too.
“We’re just missing some open shots as well,” Westbrook said. “They get some open ones and making them right now. We’ll keep creating and getting shots for each other and go from there.”
Now with OKC on the ropes, the Jazz aren’t expecting things to get easier with Game 5 on Wednesday, April 25, in Chesapeake Energy Arena.
Westbrook didn’t deliver on his comments, but the series is far from over.
“This is [the] playoffs. It’s going to be a war,” Rubio said. “You’re playing seven games and you’ve got to win four. We know that it is going to be another war next game and we just need to be tough, but at the same time mentally ready for that.
“We’re not backing down, but at the same time we know we have to be ready for a fight and respond.”