The Lakers lost an epic 26-point lead on Wednesday to 2-3 in five games.
At the center of everything? Russell Westbrook, who finished with 20 points, 14 rebounds, 13 assists and 10 turnovers. This is the sixth time in his career that Westbrook has recorded a quadruple-double with turnovers, twice as many as any other player in NBA history.
When asked after the game to rate Westbrook’s performance, Lakers head coach Frank Vogel said, “I have to watch the tape.”
In case Vogel was too excited to check the moment, we made it for him. A closer look at Westbrook’s turnovers in the context of that loss reveals a disturbing trend that goes far beyond a random game against Oklahoma City in October.
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A few observations before diving into the band.
- LeBron James did not play for the second game in a row after injuring his ankle earlier in the week. Injury aside, the Lakers are expected to take a marathon approach in his minute this season and those are the types of games Westbrook is said to be most valuable to.
- OKC entered 0-4. There’s no need to worry just yet, but if the Lakers can’t beat the worst teams without James, it doesn’t bode well for managing the minutes and finding enough time to rest.
- The more the Lakers fight, the harder it becomes to rule out this terrible preseason in which they went 0-6. Yes, it is a team of veterans. Yes, James didn’t play a lot. But at some point, the performances of every unnamed player James and Anthony Davis need to improve.
- Eight of Westbrook’s 10 turnovers came amid the Lakers collapse. After leading 56-30 midway through the second quarter, they were outscored 93-59.
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Russell Westbrook’s quadruple-double
Here are Westbrook’s 10 turnovers in all their glory.
The first is simply a poor execution of what should be the Lakers’ non-LeBron bread and butter: the pick-and-rolls of Russell Westbrook and Anthony Davis. The problem here is that Westbrook makes a bad decision, lobbing at Davis who is already surrounded by three Thunder defenders on the brink.
The Lakers have been open about playing faster. In this case, Davis runs to the ground and tries to seal the 6’8 “Darius Bazley. If Westbrook throws him over the edge it’s probably an easy two. But he cuts it short and gives up an easy turnaround.
It’s simply reckless as Westbrook drags the baseline into a sea of Thunder defenders. The decision to drive in a blocked lane is exacerbated by an even worse decision to kick the corner that’s already covered. The easy game? Read defenseman Carmelo Anthony and bring him back to the ninth-all-time leading scorer for an 18-foot wide open. It should be easy to read.
OK, so this one isn’t Westbrook’s fault and is the perfect indication of who will improve with more time to gel. If Malik Monk just spins around the corner of the Kent Bazemore screen, it is a wide open 3 point pointer. It doesn’t sound great since Westbrook isn’t throwing it at anyone, but it’s hard to fault this one.
Uhhh what? That’s the exact game we’ve seen of Westbrook for years getting a head full and putting a helpless defender on a poster. That he hasn’t even tried to exercise his willpower is perhaps a not-so-subtle reminder that Westbrook himself isn’t a spring chicken. In its 14th season, does Westbrook still have the juice and explosiveness to attack instead of … well … that.
Another where it’s not on Westbrook. Could he have been a little more urgent to get that stray pass and prevent the backcourt violation? Absoutely. But it’s hard to overarm against Westbrook here.
At this point, the Lakers are down at the start of the fourth quarter. It’s early on the shot clock and Westbrook makes a largely indefensible decision to lob through traffic at Dwight Howard. Again, a closer look reveals a bigger problem which is that no one on OKC respects Westbrook’s ability to score himself. Aid completely sags around the big roll and Westbrook throws it anyway. Maybe that will be fixed with more reps, but at some point we have to recognize the fact that until Westbrook proves he can reliably finish the defenses are not going to press.
It should be two easy. If we’re going to blame the pie, maybe it’s half on Westbrook and half on Howard. The pass was a little late but probably good enough for Howard to catch up and finish. Again, these are straightforward pieces that boil down to high school performance.
Chalk this one up like a home team scorer getting a little carried away. This should in no way have been considered a turnover of Westbrook. Numbers never lie … except when they do!
Two more easy. It was simply reckless and another largely untenable decision in a close fourth quarter game. Of all the things Westbrook could have done within reason, it could have been the worst, unless you just walked off half the pitch.
And there you have it – Westbrook’s 10 turnovers, some more disturbing than others. If we’re being honest, it’s probably closer to seven, which, to be clear, isn’t exactly that great either.
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We know Westbrook’s weaknesses off the ball and these will remain the focus of concern throughout the season and especially once the playoffs arrive. When James is in the lineup, Westbrook will either have to knock down open shots or exercise enough restraint to avoid taking the bait.
The much bigger concern is what Westbrook does with the ball in his hands and when the Lakers are sitting James. It has to be better – MUCH BETTER – if the Lakers are going to come out of the Western Conference.