OKLAHOMA CITY — With about 90 seconds left within the Oklahoma Metropolis Thunder’s 122-113 win over the Utah Jazz on Monday, Russell Westbrook walked to the baseline underneath his basket whereas pulling his white taking pictures sleeves off each arms and wadded them right into a ball. He tossed them on the baseline and shook his head. Regardless of one other triple-double — his sixth of the season — he struggled taking pictures the ball, hitting simply four of 18 from the ground, zero of 5 from Three and four of Eight from the free throw line, a pair simply barely grazing the entrance of the rim.

The Thunder cruised of their first assembly with the group that knocked out of the playoffs final season regardless, as Paul George scorched with 31 factors on Eight-of-10 taking pictures, together with 5-of-6 from Three. George had 17 within the third quarter because the Thunder erupted with 42 factors to construct a 25-point lead heading into the ultimate body, choosing up slack from Westbrook’s off taking pictures night time.

“I simply talked to [Westbrook] within the again [of the locker room] and informed him, ‘It is an 82-game season,’ and I informed him, ‘I received your again,'” George mentioned. “He is had me on loads of events the place I had an off night time and Russ took over offensively and put the sport on his shoulders. I am his counterpart, and I’ve received to do the identical for him. It is a lengthy season, there’s going to be video games like that. Particular factor, benefit of this group: We have two guys that may fill it up on a nightly foundation. However he is wonderful, it is nothing he is gotta get coached by way of. He is been a scoring chief. He is aware of how to rating the ball.”

With the Thunder constructing a lead as massive as 29, George sat all the fourth quarter, whereas Westbrook checked again in with about seven minutes left after the Jazz lower the lead down to 15. Westbrook picked up a few assists and hit a tricky layup and some free throws to maintain off any Utah comeback. However his jump-shooting has been notably spotty this season, with Westbrook hitting a career-low 21.Eight % from Three and simply 34.Three % on photographs from 15 to 19 ft, per NBA.com stats. Westbrook’s Three-point proportion at 5.1 makes an attempt per sport can be the worst Three-point proportion in NBA historical past amongst certified gamers to common 5 makes an attempt per sport in a season. He is additionally taking pictures a career-low from the road at 61.Eight %.

“His season to this time limit has been actually uneven,” Thunder coach Billy Donovan mentioned. “Lacking all of coaching camp, then coming again for a number of video games, then going out once more for [six] video games, then coming again. For him, all that stuff is simply going to take time. I am probably not anxious about it, that is simply him coming again and getting again his rhythm.”

Westbrook missed the entire preseason after present process knee surgical procedure in September, then sprained his ankle in November and missed six video games. Per ESPN Stats & Data analysis, his 22 % from the sector is his lowest mark of the season, and he’s taking pictures 42 % in his 10 video games since getting back from the ankle damage, as opposed to 49 % in his first seven video games.

“If you miss as a lot time as he is missed, it’s going to take him a while to get again, however he’ll be wonderful,” Donovan mentioned. “I am probably not anxious about it.”

The Jazz deploy a fairly demonstrable scheme to counter Westbrook’s capacity to assault the rim, attempting to push him to midrange photographs or off-the-dribble 3s, with size similar to Rudy Gobert or Derrick Favors stepping up to contest. Westbrook was visibly pissed off within the fourth quarter, shaking his head throughout a timeout and going by way of his taking pictures movement. Even with what appeared to be an off night time, Westbrook had a triple-double (12 factors, 10 assists, 11 rebounds) and performed a component in sparking George.

“That is an enormous a part of my sport — I do different issues to impression the group and to win,” Westbrook mentioned. “I like to win, and no matter play wants to be made to win, that is what I will do.”

Westbrook is averaging a triple-double on the season — once more — because the Thunder improved to 17-Eight and moved atop the Western Convention with the win.

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