On paper, Russell Westbrook is the Lakers’ worst nightmare.LA has old, slow guards who can’t stay in front of quick point guards, and Westbrook (at least according to Kendrick Perkins and Pacers player Paul George) is the most athletic point guard of all time.
So his outburst last night wasn’t surprising.
He scored 37 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in a 120-105 win. Even though Kevin Durant has clearly become the second-best player in the NBA this year, it was Westbrook who shifted the momentum and took all the big shots down the stretch last night.
More intriguingly, he did much of it against Kobe Bryant.
Westbrook drove by him with ease, finishing over an ineffectual Dwight Howard. Nine of his 15 made shots came at the rim. When Kobe sagged to protect against the dribble-drive, Westbrook got by him anyway, like this:
Kobe acknowledge getting schooled after the game:
@russwest44 was cookin tonight. He’s got mamba blood runnin thru his veins . You gave it to me tonight lil bro. C u down the road!
— Kobe Bryant (@kobebryant) March 6, 2013
Westbrook and Bryant are very different players. But they do share a visceral on-court anger. More than any young player in the league, Westbrook sneers and lashes out in the same way Kobe does.
Kobe is still a better mid-range shooter than Westbrook, and a better finesse player on offence. But his defence has clearly declined, and the athletically superior Westbrook was the worst possible match-up for him last night.
To seal the game, Westbrook picked Kobe’s pocket and threw down a dunk:
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