OKLAHOMA CITY — In a three-shot stretch, the good Russ was back.
Man, and it was sweet, too.
Seems like you never know what you’re going to get with the Thunder point guard, whose game mirrors his violent mood swings and whose shot comes and goes with no notice and little warning.
And it seems like you never know whether you’re going to get the good or the bad Westbrook. This season, it’s been a lot of the bad, but the good was great Sunday in the Thunder’s 106-91 victory against Cleveland inside Chesapeake Energy Arena.
“There has been some bad decisions on tough shots,” coach Scott Brooks said before Tuesday’s game. Then after the game, Brooks said this:
“He finally hit some 3-point shots.”
Bout time, too.
Westbrook came in shooting just 25 percent on 3-pointers through six games. He made three in a row Sunday in a stretch that sealed the game for the Thunder and ended a slump for himself.
“I’ve been taking some bad ones,” Westbrook said. “Tonight I took some good ones.”
Ahead by just three points with the clock running down in the third quarter, Westbrook made a running, 31-foot bank shot at the buzzer. “It was a heave,” he said. He started the fourth quarter with consecutive 3-point makes, and his now-recognizable guns-to-holsters move was blazing and back.
Question the decision-making from Westbrook, and you have an argument. The guy goes off the grid on regular occasion. He takes bad shots, he gets out of control. You’ve seen it and the evidence proves it.
Westbrook came in shooting just 36 percent on the season. Meanwhile, he had eight turnovers Sunday. When he’s bad, it’s recognizable because he’s bad in such a glorious way, there’s no hiding from it. Like Friday, going 3-for-10 against Detroit. Like Thursday when he went 7-for-22 against Chicago or like the season opener when he went 6-for-21 with six turnovers and couldn’t stick with Tony Parker in the closing seconds of a loss to San Antonio.
But when he’s good, he’s hand-to-the-side-of-the-face good. Like Sunday when he went 10-of-16, made four of six 3-pointers and added 10 assists, six rebounds and four steals after coming into the game with just three steals in his first six games.
That’s 27 points and a water cooler conversation starter. That’s how you get selected for the Olympic Team, the All-Star team and often times outshine even Kevin Durant.
And Sunday was highlighted by that three-shot stretch, beginning at the end of the third quarter, a time when Brooks usually has Westbrook resting on the bench.
“My sense was to keep him in there,” Brooks said. “He didn’t play a lot of minutes in the first half, so I knew he had some extra minutes in him. He’s one of the guys who can make tough shots and can score in bunches. Had three or four in a row that were special shots. Not a lot of guys would take them. He has no fear. That’s what makes him one of the best in the league.”
Westbrook proved that Sunday. He’s generally good at shaking off bad games and performing well the next. He should be because he’s had plenty of practice. Only this season, the bad games were piling up and the good games were harder to spot.
Sunday, Westbrook led the Thunder to a fourth win a row heading into Detroit Monday night. Easily the best game of the season for him so far.
“He’s playing good overall,” Brooks said. “He’s leading us. You can’t worry about shots. If you work on it every day, that’s all you can do.”
Westbrook is a career 43 percent shooter, but he’s well below that mark this season. He’s getting an average of 1.5 steals per game for his career, but just 0.5 this year. Westbrook’s rebounding is down and 3-point shooting is down.
Sunday, it seemed like all of those struggles were in the past.
“He’s back and he’s crazy,” said Thunder center Kendrick Perkins.
Well, Perkins is half-right for now. We’ll see about the other half later.