Russell Westbrook’s jumper has never been his best friend, but the relationship between the two has become particularly standoffish in the Thunder’s first-round playoff series against the Blazers. Westbrook keeps asking his jumper if he wouldn’t mind pitching in this time around, maybe help him advance out of the first round for once, and his jumper just keeps rolling its eyes and leaving the house without saying goodbye.
Unfortunately for Westbrook, the Blazers know exactly how to pick at the scabs covering an old and wounded relationship. Throughout last night’s Game 4 victory, the Blazers repeatedly reminded everyone on the floor that Westbrook had an open invitation to shoot the ball whenever he wanted. Thunder beat writer Royce Young noticed as much late in the fourth quarter:
Here’s a clip of the shot in question:
And here’s another, from a few minutes earlier in the game, in which you can clearly hear someone exhorting Damian Lillard to back up and let Westbrook fire away:
Blazers forward Al-Farouq Aminu received similar instructions. Young reported that when Aminu was getting ready to check back into the game during the fourth quarter, an assistant coach pulled him aside and reminded him not to help on Westbrook and to let him shoot.
Westbrook shot 5-of-21 in Game 4, and went 2-of-7 from three-point range. Aside from a strong shooting performance in Game 3, Westbrook has spent most of this series angrily hucking medicine balls at the rim. That’s bad news for the Thunder; what’s worse news is that Westbrook has never been one to quietly suffer slights from his opponents. Every time the Blazers vocally dare him to shoot the ball, the chances of him chucking 12-15 doomed three pointers in Game 5 goes up by that much.