Russell Westbrook and his fans were able to add another postseason victory to their count after the Los Angeles Clippers took Game 1 against the Phoenix Suns on the road, but they may have grabbed something even better in the process: vindication.
For nearly two years, Russ had to toil away with the Los Angeles Lakers, becoming the new scapegoat for LeBron James’s most vicious fanatics, as well as the poster boy for all of the Lakers shortcomings in his time with LA’s other team.
Initially, the gripes were about how Westbrook was unwilling to amend his game to better fit his new superstar teammates in James and Anthony Davis. Then, when Westbrook accepted a bench role and built a dark-horse candidacy for the Sixth Man of the Year Award, the criticisms still never went away.
While some recognized the fact that Russ was an awful fit for the Lakers to begin with, and that LeBron had orchestrated his own demise by advocating for LA to trade for Westbrook, most fans simply threw Russ under the bus, calling him washed and the main reason why the Lakers were unable to play up to their talent level.
Now, freed from the shackles of LeBron’s shadow, Russ can be himself again, and the results have been a refreshing breath of clean air after watching his struggles with the Lakers.
Since landing with the Clippers following his trade from the Lakers and subsequent buy-out, Westbrook has maintained his nearly 16-point scoring average and nearly eight assists per game while drastically increasing his efficiency, from 42 percent shooting from the field with the Lakers to 49 percent with the Clips and 30 percent from three to 36 percent.
Surrounded by shooters and teammates who don’t need the ball in their hands to succeed, Russ has thrived in his new role as a primary orchestrator for the Clippers. The better fit and the revival of his aggression all came to a head in Game 1 against the Suns and his former superstar teammate, Kevin Durant.
Despite his atrociously poor shooting night — 3-19 from the field to be exact — Russ made incredible play after incredible play to help guide his team to victory, including dishing out eights assists and grabbing a crucial game-high five offensive rebounds.
Two of those boards came in the closing minutes of the game and helped LA dwindle the clock away, and he sealed the victory with a clutch block on Devin Booker and managed to save the ball off of Booker to give the Clippers possession to ultimately put the game away.
After hitting 2 clutch free throws, Russell Westbrook (41.5 FPTS) makes a HUGE play on the defensive end in crunch time 😤😤😤 pic.twitter.com/JxuvHIwKQ2
— NBA Fantasy (@NBAFantasy) April 17, 2023
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| Title: Russell Westbrook has found vindication with the Los Angeles Clippers
| Author: Andy Quach
| Date: April 18, 2023