Russell Westbrook sounded a defiant tone when faced with questions about the Oklahoma City Thunder's struggles after falling behind two games to one in the team's first-round series against the Memphis Grizzlies.
According to ESPN.com's Brian Windhorst, Westbrook said on Friday, "I feel like [the media] tries to pull us apart. When nobody is getting their shots, you all try to find a reason in between all of us. You try to find whose fault it is. One person didn't lose, we all lost."
Westbrook continued, saying, "We're all in this together," rejecting any notion that the blame can be pinned on any one member of the team.
Though there's plenty of blame to go around, Westbrook is sure to take some heat in particular. For the series, he's 5-of-25 from beyond the arc. It would be hard to argue all of those have been good shots.
The Thunder point guard also finished Game 3 with just two assists. That may, however, speak more to his supporting cast's ineffectiveness. Backups Caron Butler and Reggie Jackson were just 2-of-14 from the field. It's hard to accrue assists with that kind of shooting.
Overall, Westbrook's Game 3 performance garnered mixed reaction. Bleacher Report's Sean Hojnacki offered one assessment:
Westbrook paced the team in the second half as Durant got bottled up. He hit a pair of enormous three-pointers in the final minute of regulation; both of them tied the game, and the second was a four-point play following a Tony Allen foul. Westbrook scored 30 points and somehow grabbed a baker's dozen of rebounds, more than any other player. However, he also lost four turnovers and totaled only two assists in 39 minutes. TNT cameras showed him on the bench early in fourth quarter with his knees wrapped up like a grizzled veteran. The 25-year-old has a lot of wear on those battered legs, and even a "healthy" Westbrook plus Durant may not be enough to grind out a series win against the Grizz.
Speaking of placing blame, Westbrook also found himself answering for his brother Ray's tweet calling for head coach Scott Brooks to be fired.
Russ put that issue to rest on Friday according to NewsOK's Anthony Slater:
I took care of that, man. We don’t conduct business like that... Me and Scotty have a great relationship. I’ve never once mentioned that I want Scotty to leave ever since I’ve been here. We created a bond with each other that’s grown.
Now attention turns to whether Oklahoma City can refocus amidst the turmoil and turn this series around. Media-driven or otherwise, there appears to be a lack of on-court chemistry that is slowing down the team's typically high-octane offense. Of course, the Grizzlies' vaunted defense might have something to do with that, too.
If the first half of Game 4 goes as poorly as Game 3's (a season-low 36 points), there will be considerable pressure on Brooks to make some adjustments on the fly—if he hasn't already.
By all accounts the Thunder will remain supremely confident regardless of the chatter between games.
As Kevin Durant put it according to NewsOK's Berry Tramel, "We’ve been in it before, so we know how to handle it. We’ve been down 2-0, we’ve been down 2-1. We’ve been in that position before, so I think that experience is going to help us out."
Game 4 will put that optimism to the test. Memphis will again host OKC on Saturday at 9:30 pm ET.
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