“Second game of a back-to-back, fourth game in five nights, and we’re tied on the road with 4 1/2 minutes left in the fourth. OK. We just need to be smart. We just need to take care of the ball. We’ve got a chance to re-take the lead. We just need —”
/watches Russell Westbrook leap into the air from the elbow with 12 seconds left on the shot clock, Brandon Knight defending him, no teammates nearby or open, and no discernible plan
“OH RUSSELL NO”
/watches this unfurl
“Great work, Russell. Up by two.”
As CBSSports.com’s Royce Young noted, this fourth-quarter moment was perhaps the quintessential Westbrook play — a braindead, basketball-doctrine-be-damned moment redeemed by instinct and athleticism at a pivotal spot in the game; from heart attack to hilarity to high-fiving, all in an instant. Like Kobe Bryant, he’s probably bummed that he didn’t get an assist off the “intentional pass to oneself,” but the bucket and the late-fourth lead probably helped a bit.
The fact that it came in the midst of a 14-point fourth quarter in which Westbrook didn’t miss a shot — 4-for-4 from the floor, 6-for-6 from the line — to team with favored running buddy Kevin Durant (11 points, four rebounds, four blocks in the final frame) to drag the largely dead and mostly outplayed Oklahoma City Thunder to a 92-90 win over the lowly but game Detroit Pistons on Monday night makes it all the more appropriate. He’s occasionally maddening, typically unorthodox and rarely what you expect, but he also tends to provide stretches like the one Durant described to Paul Harris of the Associated Press:
“I looked up and we were down 11 going into the fourth quarter,” Kevin Durant said. “And then I looked up and Russ was at the line and he didn’t miss and we were down by two.”
Westbrook finished with a game-high 33 points on 11-for-25 shooting, 10 rebounds (four on the offensive glass, including a big one with 12 seconds left that let most of the air out of the Pistons’ comeback attempt), four assists and three steals in just under 44 minutes, a night after playing nearly 40 in a win over the Cleveland Cavaliers. Durant ended with 26 points, nine boards, three assists and those four fourth-quarter blocks.
Knight struggled with his shot all night for Detroit, missing 11 of his 13 attempts and finishing with eight points, six assists, four rebounds and three turnovers. Rodney Stuckey (19 points on 13 shots, five assists) and Greg Monroe (17 points, six rebounds, four steals) led the way for the Pistons, who fell to 0-8 on the season — the worst start in franchise history.
Video via nbainfos.