The Los Angeles Lakers have reached a .500 winning percentage after starting the season in a 0-2 hole. They did that with a dramatic win on Sunday against the Memphis Grizzlies, with an even more dramatic win last night as they dispatched the San Antonio Spurs in overtime with a 125-121 final. LeBron James did not play (sore right ankle sustained in Grizzlies game), as Russell Westbrook and Anthony Davis were tasked to carry the team. They did that, and then some.
Davis had 35 points, 17 rebounds, and four blocks while Westbrook also padded the stat sheet with 33 points, 10 rebounds, and nearly his first triple-double as a Laker with eight assists as well. It was easily Westbrook’s best game as a Laker, as he has seemingly been improving each night since his horrific debut.
One part that stood out last night was Westbrook consistently getting to the rim against the Spurs guards, something that is an essential part of his offensive game given his deficiencies behind the arc. In total, he had 14 field-goal attempts within the restricted area under the basket, making 10 of those attempts for an insane 71.4 FG% (Davis had an even better night at the rim making 10/12 in the restricted area). When Mike Trudell of Spectrum SportsNet asked him what he saw from the defense that allowed him to get to the rim so much, Russ stated that it was more of a personal adjustment than anything specific he saw from the defense.
“No, just slowing down a little bit. First three games, (I) was just rushing around the basket, which I don’t really need to. Get there, taking my time, and focus on making a layup.”
Coming into the game, Westbrook had only 18 attempts in the restricted zone with only 9 conversions as he doubled that three-game total in one single game. It’s great that Russ was able to make an adjustment and get back to his bread-and-butter, but it also helps when the spacing is immaculate like it was in the video below of the emphatic dunk he had in the waning moments of overtime.
RUSSELL WESTBROOK. 😤😤😤
— Hoop Central (@TheHoopCentral) October 27, 2021
The Lakers used to be horrible when they were without LeBron James on nights where he was resting or sidelined with an injury (they weren’t amazing last night but we’ll take the “W”), but this is one of the perks of having three monstrous superstars on the team. This is something AD knows, as Jacob Rude of Silver Screen & Roll reports:
Vogel cites tonight as an example of why the team traded for Russ
"That's why we felt great about this move. Last year we lost Bron and AD…and we didn't have enough."
— Jacob Rude (@JacobRude) October 27, 2021
Russell Westbrook and the Lakers will now turn their sights towards the Oklahoma City Thunder, playing them as part of a road back-to-back. Hopefully, the nerves won’t affect Russ as they did in his Lakers debut, but who could blame him if they do given Westbrook’s history in a place that he again compared to “home” in his Spurs post-game comments.