Through the first 3 games of the postseason, Russell Westbrook is shooting 38% from the field. By comparison, he shot 43% from the field during the 2013-2014 regular season. His shooting percentage has gone down, in part because of the added defensive pressure that always accompanies playoff basketball, but Westbrook also seems to be forcing his play.
Westbrook, not know for his shooting accuracy, is not expected to shoot 50% from the field during the playoffs. The Oklahoma City Thunder don’t need him to shoot that high of a percentage to win. What the Thunder need is for Westbrook to play “his” game, which mostly revolves around his otherworldly athleticism.
The Thunder trail in their playoff series 2-1 to the Memphis Grizzlies, with 2 of the games going into overtime. Westbrook’s shooting percentage is down during this span, and as he is the number 2 option for the Thunder offensively, he is creating a problem for his team. Westbrook is the point guard, meaning he should be setting up his teammates to make plays, but he spends more time shooting than he does passing.
With the vast majority of shots being taken only divided between Westbrook and Durant (Durant’s shooting percentage hasn’t changed from the regular season to the playoffs) it only makes sense that Westbrook’s shooting woes would hinder the Thunder. The Grizzlies are a good defensive team and they have turned up the defensive intensity during the playoffs, but Westbrook must find a way to be successful against them for the Thunder to win.
It could be that Westbrook is just having a couple off games, or it could be that the Grizzlies defense has him figured out, but either way Westbrook has to figure out another way to help his team. Passing and setting up his teammates is the most logical option. Westbrook has done it countless times, he uses his athleticism and speed to get into the lane, the defense collapses around him-2 huge guys in Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph- and he passes the ball back out to the open man waiting to shoot. And if Westbrook’s teammates are making shots that will spread out the defense making it easier for him to get high percentage shots closer to the basket.
The Thunder and Grizzlies face each other again tomorrow in Memphis. Westbrook will need to have made an adjustment by then, because going losing and going down 3-1 would almost surely mean the Thunder’s season is over.