Thunder's Russell Westbrook always on the attack
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OKLAHOMA CITY -- Russell Westbrook has an Urkel look about him after games, wearing nerdy glasses of all colors and shirts with different patterns and designs when he addresses the media.
His look during games is of someone who is not going to let anyone stop him from getting where he wants to get or doing what he wants to do. Sometimes that goes for his Thunder coaches and teammates, too.
Westbrook has had some animated disagreements with coach Scott Brooks and superstar player Kevin Durant. But Westbrook's aggressiveness and passion have made him an All-Star, one-half of perhaps the best and most dynamic 1-2 punch in the NBA and had the Thunder up 1-0 against the Heat in the NBA Finals heading into Game 2 last night.
"I only know one way, stay in attack mode, and that's kind of how I've been playing since I've been playing the game of basketball," said Westbrook, who had 27 points, 11 assists and eight rebounds in Game 1. "I can't change now. It's got me to this point and it's good for our team. My coaching staff and my teammates want me to stay in attack mode, and that's all that matters."
Westbrook has his detractors because he's not a pure point guard. He's been labeled too emotional at times and someone who forces shots and plays. His critics say Westbrook should give up the ball more, especially when Durant, who scored 36 points in Game 1, usually has a mismatch on whoever is guarding him.
Westbrook took four more shots than Durant in Game 1 and had attempted 12 more in the playoffs before last night's game. But Westbrook's quickness and explosiveness give him a mismatch most nights, too, and he takes advantage by attacking the basket. Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said Westbrook makes "relentless assaults at the rim."
After a slow start in Game 1 of the Finals, Westbrook had a strong second half, and his emotion and passion helped erase Miami's 13-point lead and propel the Thunder to the win.
"He has a chip on his shoulder and he wants to be the best," Durant said. "That's the best part about our team -- we have guys that want to be the best.
"I don't know how many points he had, but he had 11 assists and eight rebounds. I don't know if you can talk too much about a guy who does that, who can do that night in and night out."
Westbrook is only 23 and just completing his third NBA regular season with averages of 23.6 points, 5.5 assists and 3.6 turnovers. He will mature with age and experience, and that's what makes the Thunder scary.
It will take some creativity and perhaps players willing to take less money to keep this group intact in this small-market city. But if the Thunder does that, this team could become a perennial NBA finalist, if not winners of multiple championships.
It starts with Durant and Westbrook and works because of how they play off each other, and how difficult they are to defend.
"I know when the fourth quarter comes it's my job to find a way to get Kevin the ball," Westbrook said. "Kevin knows when two guys are on him he passes, and I stay in attack mode as well. It's been kind of a happy medium of me shooting or Kevin shooting or whoever shooting, just as long as we stay in attack mode."
Westbrook doesn't know any other way.