Could This Be the Turning Point for Russell Westbrook and the Lakers?
In every great sports championship, there is a moment when the winning team figures out what they need to do and how they need to play to win. Last night might have been that night for Russell Westbrook and the Lakers.
After an accursed season where injuries undermined any promise and the ball never seemed to bounce the Lakers’ way, last night’s inspired overtime win over the Toronto Raptors courtesy of Russell Westbrook heroics raises hopes. Russ’ clutch steal with the Lakers down by three and only ten seconds left in regulation and his dagger three to tie and send the game into overtime may have changed everything for him and the Los Angeles Lakers going forward.
It’s easy to ignore last night’s game as just an outlier but there are legitimate reasons to be optimistic that the Los Angeles Lakers and Russell Westbrook may finally be figuring out how to integrate their games and make it work. There were strong signs LeBron and Russ were figuring out both how to share ball handling duties and make an impact off the ball. The player and ball movement last night was outstanding as the playmaking with 33 assists.
There were also signs the coaching staff may finally be getting it together. Frank Vogel finally put 6' 8" Wenyen Gabriel in the starting lineup alongside 6' 10" Dwight Howard so the Lakers’ size wouldn’t handicap them all night. Small ball is fine when it’s on steroids with LeBron and AD but micro ball with LeBron and four guards just leaves your team undersized and undermanned all game long. It’s not only dispiriting but also a recipe to lose games.
What are the odds last night’s moment could be momentum changing for the Lakers? That Russell Westbrook was the protagonist in the middle of last night’s win and the catalyst makes the moment pregnant with possibility. There’s no question Russ figured out last night how to fit his game with LeBron and the rest of the team. While he had his usual dumb turnovers and missed layups, Russ played like Russ, attacking the paint, making right pass.
There was jerkiness and unpredictability about how the Lakers played on offense and defense last night. We made unexpected plays helping on defense and sharing the ball on offense. And we did it without relying on micro ball. The key was more ball and player movement and fewer isolation plays. While we lost the transition game, our half court offense was best we’ve seen in a while as we posted 33 assists, our second best total as a team this season.
Maybe this is a mirage but there’s also a chance last night could have been the moment that changed the season for Russell Westbrook and the Los Angeles Lakers. We’ll find out tonight if last night was a false dawn or an awakening.
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