Lakers' LeBron James: Russell Westbrook 'Let Last Game Go' After Being Benched

Paul KasabianFeatured Columnist IIJanuary 22, 2022

Los Angeles Lakers guard Russell Westbrook (0) goes up for a dunk in front of Orlando Magic guard Gary Harris (14) and center Mo Bamba (5) during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Friday, Jan. 21, 2022, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)
AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack

Los Angeles Lakers point guard Russell Westbrook was benched at the tail end of a loss to the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday. It was another tough moment amid a season of struggles, with a 5-of-17 shooting performance.

Westbrook played far better Friday in a 116-105 road win over the Orlando Magic, though, scoring 18 points on 8-of-17 shooting. He also grabbed 11 rebounds, dished seven assists and had three steals.

After the game, Lakers forward LeBron James commented on his teammate's bounce-back performance:

Spectrum SportsNet @SpectrumSN

.<a href="https://twitter.com/KingJames?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@KingJames</a> (29 PTS, 7 REB, 5 AST) reflects on Russell Westbrook and Stanley Johnson's contributions in tonight's 116-105 <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/LakeShow?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#LakeShow</a> win. <a href="https://t.co/rB5FEN79wT">pic.twitter.com/rB5FEN79wT</a>

"It's one game. I think he let last game go and was focused for this game, focused on a new game, new trip ... like I said, he's the head of the snake when it comes to being our point guard. He puts us in position, his attack is great. I thought he did a good job of getting to the paint, either for his shot or spreading out, and guys just played off his energy and effort on both ends tonight. And it was a great team effort."

On Wednesday, Lakers head coach Frank Vogel was clear about why he benched Westbrook, telling reporters that he was "playing the guys that I thought were going to win the game."

That didn't happen against Indiana, but the Lakers looked far better Friday, albeit against a team with the worst record in the NBA at 8-39. They outscored Orlando 62-43 in the second half en route to an 11-point win that moved them to 23-23.

L.A. will stay in Florida to visit the Miami Heat on Sunday at 6 p.m. ET in hopes of getting back over .500.